SHOEMAKER: See, I'm 58 years old. How far can you go? I've been riding 40 years and
I'm ready to give it up and try something else.
The Shoe will move into a more-relaxing schedule after his goodbye tour wraps up
in February, spending more time with his family and golfing. But he'll stay with horses-
in a training capacity out of Southern California. He started in the business like so
many others: cleaning stalls as a teenager. Now, over 88-hundred victories, he's calling
it quits- but not because he's tired of the winning circle.
SHOEMAKER: No, I enjoy winning races but I don't have the same enthusiasm as I had
twenty years ago, about riding. I would have been gone in the early part of the years
if I wasn't enjoying it. Your mind works as good but your body doesn't do what your
mind wants it to do. And you may hinder your horse a bit. You're not with him enough,
moving with him and maybe a fraction off will make the difference in being a half or
length or more ahead.
Shoemaker holds virtually every riding honor and has brought home purses totalling
more than 122 million dollars covering five decades. Three years ago, he became the oldest
to win a Kentucky Derby after bringing home Ferdinand. But he has no trouble recalling his
first mount and first victory- a month apart- in 1949.
SHOEMAKER: It was a little filly called SHAFTER VEE who laid second all the way and came
on in the stretch and won- despite me. The first mount yes, I remember that, too. It was
in the mud. I forgot to pull my goggles down, I got my eyes full of mud. But the filly was
nice, she took me around the racetrack.
Bill prefers the European race tracks because of their larger sizes and their grass
tracks which take less out of the horse and jockey, he feels. He says the horses aren't
as good as they used to be but the young jockeys are an impressive lot today. In America,
he warns that over-saturating areas with racing will hurt the industry. And he agrees
that it might be a good idea to have new jockeys learn more about the animals- before
SHOEMAKER: ..To give them a foundation about the animals before they can ride a race. A
lot of guys are here for six months and they want to ride right away. Some of them do,
and they're not ready for that sort of thing. You can teach them techniques and how to do
it properly. But if they don't have the repore with the animal… animals sense that sort
of thing… it's not going to do any good.
Bill says his vast experience will pave the way for a smooth transition into the
horse training profession.
SHOEMAKER: -A lot of great trainers in my life, and the first one was a man by the name
of Preston Birch many years ago in the 1950s. Frank Reilly after that… Charley Wittingham.
There's been many of them. In thirty, forty years I've been riding for these guys, if a
little bit of that hasn't rubbed off on me, I'm in trouble.
A hall of famer for over 30 years who has never visited the betting window, the Shoe
admits a love affair with Spectaculiar Bid- his personal favorite. Earlier this year,
Shoemaker captured his one-thousandth stakes victory and has been the overall winningest
jockey since 1970. But he doesn't feel that record is un-reachable.
SHOEMAKER: No I think that Lafite Pincay, if he stays healthy and wants to ride another
ten years, he could easily do it, maybe less. Chris McCarron would have a chance- he's up
around five thousand and he's young.
The farewell tour will conclude at Santa Anita Racetrack in California, where
Shoemaker won 17 straight riding titles. Bill Flynn, WXXI 1370.