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William Shoemaker

William Shoemaker
William Shoemaker
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   During an illustrious career that lasted more than 50 years, Bill Shoemaker was one of the most successful jockeys in the annals of Thoroughbred racing. A native of Fabens, Texas, Shoemaker won 8,833 races (a record at the time of his retirement) and captured 11 Triple Crown races.

   Shoemaker’s first win came at age 17 on April 20, 1949. More than 50 years later, on Jan. 20, 1990, Shoemaker rode his final winner, Beau Genius, at Gulfstream Park. In between, Shoemaker won the Kentucky Derby four times, the Preakness Stakes twice, and the Belmont Stakes six times.

   In addition to his Triple Crown success, Shoemaker won a record 11 runnings of the Santa Anita Handicap and eight editions each of the Santa Anita Derby, Hollywood Derby, Hollywood Gold Cup, San Luis Obispo Handicap, and Oak Tree Invitational. He won the Blue Grass Stakes and the Del Mar Futurity six times apiece and had multiple victories in the Arlington Handicap (4), Clement L. Hirsch Handicap (4), Bing Crosby Handicap (3), Del Mar Debutante Stakes (5), Del Mar Oaks (4), Jockey Club Gold Cup (4), San Diego Handicap (4) and United Nations Handicap (3).

   Shoemaker won the Kentucky Derby with Swaps (1955), Tomy Lee (1959), Lucky Debonair (1965), and Ferdinand (1986); the Preakness with Candy Spots (1963) and Damascus (1967); the Belmont with Gallant Man (1957), Sword Dancer (1959), Jaipur (1962), Damascus (1967), and Avatar (1975).

   With 18-1 longshot Ferdinand, Shoemaker became the oldest jockey to win the Kentucky Derby (at age 54) in 1986. The following year, he rode Ferdinand to victory over Alysheba in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

   Shoemaker led North American jockeys in earnings 10 times and in races won five times. He won the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award in 1951 and won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey in 1981.

   In September of 1970, Shoemaker won his 6,033rd race to surpass Johnny Longden for the most wins all time. That record was later broken by Laffit Pincay, Jr., and is currently held by Russell Baze.

   Shoemaker rode numerous outstanding horses in his career, including Hall of Famers SwapsCicadaSword DancerJohn HenryNorthern DancerSpectacular BidAck AckGallant ManBuckpasserRound TableForegoDamascus andGamely.  He died at age 72 on Oct. 12, 2003.

   Bill Shoemaker was inducted into the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame in 1958.