New-York Historical Society's Bill Shannon Dictionary of New York Sports

Category Archives: Horse racing

Eddie Arcaro


Eddie Arcaro (Horse racing. Born, Cincinnati, OH, Feb. 19, 1916; died, Miami, FL, Nov. 14, 1997.)  Although his full name was George Edward Arcaro, the man never used that handle and became known the world over simply as Eddie Arcaro.  Also, simply, he was one of the greatest jockeys in the history of thoroughbred racing.  During a 30-plus-year career that began in 1931, Arcaro rode 4,779 winners worth some $30,039,543.  His great record included 550 wins in major stakes races.  He was the jockey for two Triple Crown winners – Whirlaway in 1941 and Citation in 1948 – and he rode five Kentucky Derby winners.  In New York, Arcaro achieved the distinction of riding in the Belmont Stakes 22 times from 1938-60.  Equally impressive, he rode six Belmont winners.  His final ride came on Jan. 1, 1962.  Arcaro became familiar to sports fans across the country during the early years of the television era.  His pleasing personality and stylish rides earned him popular acclaim among both regular improvers of the breed and casual observers of racing.  Throughout his great career, Arcaro was a particular favorite of New York racing fans, who claimed him as their own.

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Ted Atkinson


Ted Atkinson (Horse racing.  Born, Toronto, Ont., June 17, 1916; died, Beaver Dam, VA, May 5, 2005.)  In the 20th century, no jockey dominated New York racing as did Ted Atkinson.  In a 15-year span from 1943-57, Atkinson was leading jockey at all New York tracks 11 times.  Atkinson became only the third jockey in American history to surpass 3,000 winners when, in 1954, he rode 226 to raise his 17-year career total to 3,069.  Atkinson first became the leading New York rider in 1943.  The next year, he led the nation with 287 wins and was also the nation’s top money-earning rider, with $849,101 in purses.  In 1946, Atkinson became the first jockey to earn over one million dollars in purses in a single year.  That year, he had 233 winners and total earnings of $1,036,825.  He was the leading jockey in New York in 1943, 1944, 1945, 1947, and 1948.  Atkinson rode 198 winners at New York tracks alone in both 1944 and 1948.  He was the dominant rider of the 1950s, finishing first in 1950, 1951, 1952, 1954, 1955, and 1957.  Among his proudest achievements is being the only rider on the great Tom Fool.  In 30 starts, the bay colt posted 21 wins and finished second seven times.  Tom Fool was the champion 2-year-old of 1951 and Handicap Horse of the Year in 1953.

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Braulio Baeza


Braulio Baeza (Horse racing.  Born, Panama City, Panama, Mar. 26, 1940.)  During his long career as one of New York’s (and America’s) most successful thoroughbred jockeys, Braulio Baeza accomplished almost everything possible for a jockey to achieve.  At age 21, Baeza rode the first of his three Belmont Stakes winners.  He was the nation’s leading money-winning jockey five times (including four years in a row) and a two-time winner of the Eclipse Award as the nation’s best jockey.  Baeza’s first Belmont winner was Sherluck in 1961 and his victory prevented Carry Back (winner of the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness) from earning the Triple Crown.  His second Belmont winner was Chateaugay, a horse that won two of the three Triple Crown races (winning the Derby but missing out on the Preakness).  In 1969, Majestic Prince made his bid for Triple Crown laurels but Baeza rode Arts & Letters to victory in “the test of champions” to thwart him.  In between his second and third Belmont triumphs, Baeza rose to become the dominant jockey in the country.  In 1965, he led the nation in money earnings for the first of four straight years when his 1,245 rides produced 270 winners (including 24 stakes) worth $2,582,702. He rode 298 winners in 1,341 mounts the next year and just missed the $3 million plateau in earnings ($2,951,022) but became the first jockey to crack that barrier the next year.

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Laz Barrera


Laz Barrera (Horse racing.  Born, Havana, Cuba, May 8, 1924; died, Downey, CA, Apr. 25, 1991.)  Lazaro Sosa Barrera was one of the outstanding thoroughbred trainers in the nation during a 50-year career that started at age 16 in his native Cuba.  He then transferred his base to Mexico and subsequently to the U.S.  Barrera trained two Belmont Stakes winners, Affirmed in 1978 and Bold Forbes in 1976.  Both were a strong testimony to his training skill.  Bold Forbes was a sprinter, the kind of horse that might win the Kentucky Derby but has little chance in the Belmont with 1½-mile distance.  Bold Forbes did, indeed, win the 1976 Kentucky Derby.  On the same day, Barrera’s Due Diligence won the Carter Handicap at Aqueduct.  Bold Forbes sprinted to the early lead in the Preakness but then faded and injured his left hind foot in the process.  Odds against him winning the Belmont mounted with the injury but he came through in a thrilling finish, outdistancing MacKenzie Bridge and Great Contractor in an exciting duel to the wire.  Two years later, Barrera delivered an even bigger package of thrills when Affirmed won the Triple Crown, beating Alydar by a smaller margin in each of the three races.  Affirmed’s margin in the Belmont was a head.  A lifelong Yankees fan, Barrera likened Affirmed to his favorite ballplayer – Joe DiMaggio.  Barrera trained 128 different stakes winners, was selected the outstanding American trainer four years in a row (1976-79) and five times was the leading money-winning trainer in the country (1977-79, 1984, 1986).  But racing fans will always remember him for his Joe DiMaggio – Triple Crown winner Affirmed.

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Isador Bieber


Isador Bieber (Thoroughbred racing.  Born, Vasloveck, Poland, May 10, 1887; died, Hollywood, FL, Aug. 29, 1974.)  Nicknamed “the Colonel” by Damon Runyon, Isador Bieber was born near Warsaw but came to the U.S. as a four-year-old and grew up to become one of racing’s most successful trainers.  By 1928, Bieber had formed a partnership with Hirsch Jacobs that was to last over four decades.  The tandem saddled 3,569 winners and earned over $12 million in purses, a huge figure for the time.  Among their most famous horses were Stymie and Hail to Reason.  After Jacobs’ death in 1970, Bieber continued to train but entered steadily fewer horses.

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Ashley Cole


Ashley Cole (Horse racing.  Born, New York, NY, July 11, 1876; died, New York, NY, Feb. 23, 1965.)  Though not a noted owner or breeder, Ashley T. Cole had a profound effect on New York thoroughbred racing.  When Cole was appointed to the Racing Commission by Gov. Herbert Lehman in May 1942, the appointment was something of a surprise in racing circles.  He was named chairman of the Commission following Herbert Bayard Swope’s resignation in 1945, and held the job until his death.  Cole, along with Harry F. Guggenheim and others, organized the not-for-profit New York Racing Association in 1955, which resulted in the closing of Jamaica racetrack and the rebuilding of Aqueduct (and, later, Belmont).  He served as president of the National Association of State Racing Commissioners and helped create the New York breeders awards program.

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Pat Day


Pat Day (Horse racing.  Born, Brush, CO, Oct. 13, 1953.)  In a career that began in 1973, Pat Day became the fourth-winningest jockey ever, with 8,803 winning mounts and a record in purse earnings (almost $298 million) at his retirement in 2005.  In 2002, Day surpassed the purse record of $264,351,679 set by Chris McCarron.  He led the nation in winning mounts in 1982 (399), 1983 (455), 1984 (400), 1990 (364), and 1991 (430).  Day rode his first Belmont in 1984, finishing second aboard Pine Circle, and later was irons for three Belmont winners:  Easy Goer (1989), Tabasco Cat (1994), and Commendable (2000).  His 1991 performance included a record 60 stakes victories and $14,400,348 in purse earnings.  His 1999 earnings were $18,092,845 and in 2000 Day’s mounts earned $17,479,838 in purses.  Even though he began cutting his schedule back in 2004, he still rode $10,882,222 worth of purse earnings that year.

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Eddie Delahoussaye


Eddie Delahoussaye (Horse racing.  Born, New Iberia, LA, Sept. 21, 1951.)  Although based in California starting in 1979, Eddie Delahoussaye numbered two Belmont Stakes winners among his more than 6,384 career victories, Delahoussaye made his first Belmont start aboard Gato Del Sol in 1982 and finished second.  His next two Belmont mounts (Risen Star in 1988 and A.P. Indy in 1992) both resulted in first-place finishes.  He also rode two Kentucky Derby winners and one Preakness winner.  He retired in Jan. 2003 after being injured in a fall at Del Mar Racetrack.

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Jim Fitzsimmons


Jim Fitzsimmons (Horse racing.  Born, Brooklyn, NY, July 23, 1874; died, Miami, FL, Mar. 11, 1966.)  Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons was born on a stretch of land that later became Brooklyn’s Sheepshead Bay Racetrack, but he wasn’t attracted to the sport of racing until he was 15, when he began as a waterboy and part-time jockey. When he grew too heavy to ride, he switched to training horses in the mid-1890s.  It was a move that benefitted racing.  He began a career that was to produce 2,275 winners worth $13,082,911 in purses, very large numbers for the time.  Much of the winning was done for owner William Woodward’s Belair Stud Farm, for which Fitzsimmons produced two Triple Crown winners, Gallant Fox (1930) and Omaha (1935).  He also had ten other horses that won one or two legs of the Triple Crown, including Johnstown (1939), Faireno (1932) and Granville (1936).  Fitzsimmons was the nation’s leading trainer in 1936 and 1939.  For Wheatley Stable in 1956, he was again the leading trainer.  In 1955, he saddled Nashua, winner of the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes and the Horse of the Year, and did the same for Bold Ruler, 1957′s Preakness winner and Horse of the Year.

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Lucien Fontaine


Lucien Fontaine (Harness racing.  Born, Pointe aux Trembles, P.Q., Apr. 12, 1939.)  In 1959, Lucien Paul Fontaine made what could hardly be called an auspicious start in harness driving.  He drove twice and failed to finsh in the money either time. But in the  intervening years, his next 6,613 drives produced 3,458 wins and 1,634 place and show finishes to give him career purse earnings of $21,236,952.  After working under Canadian standouts Keith Waples and Clint Hodgins, Fontaine began his own driving career at Rockingham and Monticello before moving to the major New York tracks in the early 1960s – Yonkers and Roosevelt Raceways.  He had early outstanding success, becoming the leading driver on the New York circuit in 1968. He was also the leading driver in the New York area in 1977 and 1978 by which time the Meadowlands had opened.  Fontaine drove 175 or more winners nine times in 10 years from 1968 through 1977.  His best career year was 1968 when he had 264 winners in 1,359 starts and had 388 other horses finish in the money.  He was second in the nation in winners that year and fourth in earnings with $1,077,251. Fontaine was in the top 10 among drivers for earnings 10 times.  In 1986, he made only 177 starts but set numerous track records behind Forest Skipper. The pair won legs of the Graduate Series at Freehold and Rosecroft in record times and set another at Roosevelt.  Forest Skipper, the 1986 Horse of the Year, also notched a world record for a 4-year-old stallion over a mile track at the Meadowlands that year, covering the distance in 1:51.3, a mark he equaled five days later winning a leg of the Driscoll Series. He matched the mark a third time winning the Driscoll Final.

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The Bill Shannon Biographical Dictionary of New York Sports is an open database of sports biographies maintained by Jordan Sprechman and Marty Appel. We welcome public and scholarly contributions and suggestions.

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