Willie Shoemaker was an acclaimed American horse jockey. Throughout his career he won over 8,833 races.
Shoemaker enjoyed an outstanding racing career that saw him ride many champion horses – three Kentucky Derbie winners and four Belmont Stakes victorians were among them.
He was an ardent horseman and sports enthusiast, as well as an active philanthropist who kept his personal life private.
Early Life and Education
Shoemaker was born prematurely in Fabens, Texas weighing only one pound thirteen ounces and wasn’t expected to make it through the night – however his grandmother took care in keeping him warm by placing him on an oven door to keep warm.
Shoemaker spent much of his teen years working on a thoroughbred ranch where he learned the fundamentals of horsemanship, grooming and stable work. Soon thereafter he started frequenting California racetracks and admiring Johnny Longden and Eddie Arcaro’s achievements as jockeys.
Shoemaker amassed 8,833 victory victories during his professional horse racing career. These included four Kentucky Derby victories, five Belmont Stakes victories and two Preakness races wins. Shoemaker also rode numerous notable horses including Gallant Man, Damascus and Swaps during these accomplishments.
Shoemaker earned $75 a month cleaning stables and riding horses on Southern California tracks. Through hard work, he developed a passion for thoroughbred racing – watching races on radio broadcasts and admiring legendary jockeys such as Eddie Arcaro.
Shoemaker retired as a jockey in 1990 with an astounding 8,833 victories to his credit, including four Kentucky Derbies, five Belmont Stakes and three Preakness Stakes wins – for total earnings exceeding over $123.8 Million!
Shoemaker passed away at 72 in 2003. Unfortunately, no information regarding his financial holdings has been made available by his estate. He is survived by his wife and children as well as being known for being a highly-acclaimed horse trainer who owned many racehorses he trained himself. Furthermore, his fame led to many commercial endorsements as well as appearing on TV shows and movies – this popularity even extended into Hollywood movies!
Achievement and Honors
Shoemaker started racing in 1949 and finished in 1990, amassing 8,833 victories along the way – winning multiple Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont stakes races including multiple trips to victory at each. Though never riding away as Triple Crown winner himself.
Shoemaker won numerous important victories throughout his career, such as becoming the first million-dollar racer when John Henry defeated The Bart to capture the Arlington Million. Additionally, in 1979 riding Spectacular Bid he captured both Breeders’ Cups.
After retiring from riding, Shoemaker became involved with fund-raisers for spinal cord research and published three mystery novels featuring jockey-turned-sleuth Coley Killebrew. He served as honorary chairman of the Paralysis Project until his death in 2003; he is survived by his wife Cindy; their daughter Amanda also became a jockey; Shoemaker always maintained an attitude of humility and generosity in life.
Shoemaker was born prematurely weighing just one pound and thirteen ounces and only expected to live. But his grandmother took him home and raised him on her ranch where she encouraged his passion for horses, especially thoroughbred racing, through radio broadcasts of horse races during the nighttime hours.
After retiring in 1990, Shoemaker turned his expertise as a trainer at Santa Anita Racetrack in California. Unfortunately, an automobile accident rendered him quadriplegic. Shoemaker continued using a mouth-controlled wheelchair until his death at age 72 in 2003.
Shoemaker amassed 8,833 victories during his career. These included four Kentucky Derby and five Belmont Stakes triumphs.
Shoemaker was an impeccable professional both on and off the racetrack, taking horse racing very seriously as an ambassador of horse racing and always being gentlemanly and respectful towards his competitors.
He was an exceptionally light jockey – just 4′ 11″, yet boasted great strength and timing that enabled him to win races from seemingly impossible positions on horses he rode.
In 1986, Shoemaker became the oldest jockey ever to win the Kentucky Derby when he guided Ferdinand through a narrow opening on the rail. Over his long career, he won 8,833 races with earnings exceeding $100 Million – being born August 19, 1931 in Fabens Texas he is now 72 and had paintings done of him by Andy Warhol who also painted pictures of him – having a daughter named Amanda as well.