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Foreword The sport of horse racing has provided me with the opportunity to journey all around the world. During my travels as a professional jockey in a career that lasted nearly four decades, I was often conspicuous because of my size, my build, and the riding crop that stuck out of the “tack” bag that I carried onto airplanes. Upon learning that I rode Thoroughbreds for a living, people I met would invariably ask me if I had ever ridden in the Kentucky Derby. Their next question would be, “Have you ever won it?” The Kentucky Derby is, without question, the most soughtafter prize in this magnificent sport, which originated over four hundred years ago. When I was growing up in Dorchester, Massachusetts , my parents and grandparents always watched the Derby on television. I first became interested in the Derby at the age of fourteen in 1969, the year Majestic Prince won. The big chestnut colt was trained by Johnny Longden, a former jockey who retired with the most wins in the history of American racing (and the only man to win the Run for the Roses as both a jockey and a trainer). Majestic Prince was ridden by Bill Hartack, whose fifth win that day tied Eddie Arcaro’s record for most career Derby wins for a jockey. I have watched every running of the Derby xiii Foreword xiv since that first Saturday in May—except when I was participating in it as a rider myself. My first opportunity to ride in the Derby came in 1976. The thrill I felt at my first Derby start in the 102nd Run for the Roses was only enhanced by the fact that I would be competing against my older brother Gregg, who was also a jockey and who had introduced me to the sport of horse racing only a few years earlier. Our dad was in attendance, and words cannot describe the look on his face when Gregg and I walked past him on the way to the track. There was never a prouder father. My mount, Cojak, had a moderate chance to win, but we finished sixth, just behind my brother. When I returned to the unsaddling area, I dismounted by leaping into the air as I shouted, “I just rode in the greatest race in the world!” Despite our somewhat disappointing finish, I was almost as excited as if we had actually won the race. Riding in my first Kentucky Derby was an experience I would never forget. In 1983, I got a little closer to smelling those famous roses, finishing second on Desert Wine. Three years later I again finished second, this time behind one of the best race riders in the history of the sport, Bill Shoemaker, who was then fifty-six. In October of that year, I suffered a fractured left femur in a racing accident, which sidelined me until early April 1987. As I was preparing to return to racing, Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg asked me if I thought I would be fit enough to go a mile and a quarter on the first Saturday in May. I answered, “Of course I will.” But in the back of my mind I was not really sure. However, I knew he was thinking of letting me ride Derby contender Alysheba, so I stepped up my exercise regimen to make sure I would be ready. Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day had been riding Alysheba but had committed to ride the eventual favorite Demos Begone instead. What a stroke of luck for me. I was well enough to ride Alysheba in his final Derby prep, the Blue Grass Stakes, which in those days was contested only Foreword xv nine days before the Run for the Roses. We crossed the wire in first place but were disqualified and placed third by the stewards, who felt that we had interfered with another horse in the homestretch . Although I was disappointed in the decision, I still liked our chances in the Derby. Alysheba again found trouble in the homestretch on the first Saturday in May, but this time he took the worst of it—clipping heels, stumbling, and almost falling. However, he was such a gifted athlete that he regained his balance and his footing in time to charge by Bet Twice en route to victory. When we reached the winner’s circle the crowd went nuts. I felt like a rock star as security guards and police...


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