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The Day in Sports | COUNTDOWN TO 2000 / A day-by-day
recap of some of the most important sports moments
of the 20th Century: MAY 27, 1981

Unthinkable Becomes Reality for Shoemaker

May 27, 1999|EARL GUSTKEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

When Bill Shoemaker awakened on this date 18 years ago, he had ridden 7,999 winners in a 32-year career.

When the sun set, he had a new total: 8,003.

In the first race at Hollywood Park, he hit 8,000 with a routine Shoemaker ride. He took a $7.20 favorite, War Allied, to a 2 1/4-length win in a six-furlong race.

He was 49 that day. Given the 4-foot-11, 95-pound Shoemaker's phenomenal ability to maintain his weight without dieting, some of his fellow jockeys looked ahead to 10,000.

And many also couldn't imagine anyone else reaching 8,000.

At the time, Laffit Pincay Jr., 34, was closest to Shoemaker with 4,466 winners.

Shoemaker reached 8,833 winners, but his career ended with a 1991 auto accident that left him paralyzed. Pincay should catch Shoemaker this year.

Shoemaker's ride on War Allied came 11 years after he'd broken Johnny Longden's record of 6,032 winners. By the time Shoemaker reached 8,000, no one else was even close to Longden. Today, 14 jockeys have won more than 6,000 races.

Interviews with fellow riders that afternoon in 1981 yielded unanimity on the fact that Shoemaker's remarkable longevity could be attributed to his metabolism.

For many jockeys, making weight means arduous dieting and hours in the steam room. Shoemaker ate like a horse.

At 8,000, Shoemaker waved happily at the crowd, grateful for its ovation. Then he went to the jockeys' room and had a bucket of ice water poured on him.

Then, back to work. He rode three more winners that day.

Also on this date: In 1961, at the Modesto Relays, Ralph Boston became the first man to break 27 feet in the long jump, leaping 27 feet 1/2 inch on his first jump. . . . On the same day, at the CIF track meet at Chaffey High, two remarkable performances: a 46.1 seconds in the 440 by Compton's Ulis Williams and a 20.2 in the 220 by Glendale Hoover junior Forrest Beaty. Both were national prep records.

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