Monday, March 19, 2012

The first Jim Murray Memorial Foundation event of the year — the JMMF ‘A Day at the Races — is scheduled for Saturday at beautiful Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif. There still are tickets available to come join the excitement of a full day of horse racing followed by dinner and music by Southern California's hottest beach rock band, Barley Legal.
The emcee will be ESPN SportsCenter anchor Neil Everett. As well, actor Robert Loggia and his writer/producer/director wife Audrey will join us for the day.
Silent auction prizes include tickets to the Breeders Cup, a VIP tour of the Santa Anita stables with special instruction on horse training by top horse trainer Dave Hofmans, VIP tour of ESPN with tickets to watch a taping of SportsCenter LA and many more.
It's going to be a great day at the track raising money for college journalism scholarships.  We hope you can join us! 



4,000 Get 'Shoeing'

    I think it was either Confucius or Jimmy Kilroe who was the first to remind us there is only one athlete in the "sport" of kings — the jockey. Obvious, perhaps, but a fact frequently overlooked by those who tend to think of racing as a duel of wits between a dumb animal and a guy with two bucks — a duel, by the way, in which neither one has much of an edge.
    A horse, left to his own devices, would no more run a race for his daily oats than you would wrestle the butcher two-out-of-three for a pork chop. It's that pest on his back, the jockey, who louses up his otherwise peaceful day at the feed bag.
    Someone once suggested that horse races might be more interesting without jockeys. They sure would. For one thing, several people in the infield would get killed or maimed because a horse without a rider would never run in a circle back to the barn but would take the nearest short cut.
    In the second place, he would never distinguish the nuances of differences between a mile race and a five-furlong sprint and would either loaf through one or squander his run too soon in the other. Furthermore, how could the stable get the word across to him they weren't trying that day?
    A jockey is as necessary to racing as a horse. But there are all kinds of ways to ride race horses. Some, like Eddie Arcaro and Willie Hartack, do it by brute strength and reign of terror. They come into the stretch as though they were leading a cavalry charge. Hartack, in particular, probably the least stylish successful rider in track history, goes all around the course scratching and slapping like a man trying to escape a swarm of bees.
    But Bill Schoemaker, who rode his 4,000th winner the other afternoon, is an old smoothie with the horses who gets a good ride out of a mount the same way a cad coaxes a kiss out of a girl — with soft words and smooth technique.
    With Arcaro and Hartack, you get the idea the horse doesn't dare lose or they will have him in fillets by nightfall. With Shoemaker, you get the idea you are witnessing a love affair and the horse is running his heart out because he adores Shoe and doesn't want to let him down — like a new bride cheerfully scrubbing the kitchen floor on her hands and knees. Where most jocks hate horses, Shoe likes them and the horses seem to know it.
    The only line of communication between a horse and rider is in the hands and Shoemaker's touch has been likened by track experts to "the wing of a dove." It's an attribute a rider is born with and is to racing what Sam Sneed's swing is to golf or Warren Spahn's motion to baseball. There is almost nothing that can go wrong with it and Shoemaker should be riding as long as he is breathing.
    Booting home 4,000 winners after only 12 years on the track is an astounding accomplishment when you consider it took John Longden and Arcaro a quarter of a century to achieve it.
    But achievement on horseback has always come easy to Willie Shoemaker. An indifferent scholar whose high school transcript at El Monte was dotted with "D's" and "F's," Shoe was an unhappy youngster until he suddenly found himself one day hoisted in the saddle of a colt at the Suzy Q ranch in Puente.
    Shoe found his place in history that day but he was so painfully shy trainers used to complain to George Reeves that "he don't even lift his head when you tell him what to do." Countered Reeves, "Well, does he do it?" The trainers would answer "Yes," and Reeves would snort "What do you want, the 'Gettysburg Address' or a sound ride?"
    Shoemaker has been delivering sound rides since he first tied on a mount. He won 218 races in the first eight months on the track when he was an apprentice and scarcely getting the top stock. He was as intrepid off the track. Once, Reeves ordered Shoe to take a mare out in the ocean water off Del Mar to swim her in the surf. Shoe did. Reeves didn't find out till later Shoemaker couldn't swim.
    A groom around the barns used to tease Shoe who could usually be found out behind the barns reading comic books and sipping cokes. "Shoe," he said one day, "I'm going to throw you in that pile of muck over there." Shoe looked up from the Superman comic. "Now?" he asked hopefully. The groom grunted. They wrestled. George Reeves remembers it. "Bill smelled all right when they got through. But the other guy didn't."
    On the track these days, Bill Shoemaker usually smells like a blanket of roses, he's been draped in so many of them.
Reprinted with permission by the Los Angeles Times.

Jim Murray Memorial Foundation | P.O. Box 995 | La Quinta | CA | 92247


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