Kings of the Sport

by Ed Meyer

posted on October 18, 2008 in General Discussion, News, Other Events | No Comments >>

Three of the greatest jockeys ever to sit atop a racehorse — by almost any measure or assessment — signed autographs and visited with fans Tuesday at Lone Star Park during a stop in what’s being called, appropriately enough, the “Legends Tour.”

To promote the upcoming Breeders’ Cup World Thoroughbred Championships, Angel Cordero Jr., Pat Day and Laffit Pincay Jr. have been touring racetracks around the country: Lone Star on Tuesday; Sam Houston today. The tour culminates Saturday at Santa Anita, where Day and Cordero will ride in the “Living Legends” race, along with six other H.O.F jockeys — Jerry Bailey, Sandy Hawley, Julie Krone, Chris McCarron, Gary Stevens and Jacinto Vasquez.

At Lone Star, the Hall of Fame riders recalled some of their career highlights, which also happen to be some of the sport’s highlights. They battled through the stretch 24 years ago in the first Breeders’ Cup Classic. Day, who retired in 2005 but remains the all-time leading Breeders’ Cup jockey, won by a head on Wild Again, followed by Pincay on Gate Dancer (who was disqualified) and Cordero on Slew O’ Gold.

They rode many of the sport’s superstars of the past 30 years. Pincay said his favorite horse is still Affirmed. Cordero said his favorite is still Seattle Slew.

“I rode more than 44,000 races, and if I could have one back to ride again, it would be that one,” Cordero said, recalling the 1978 Jockey Club Gold Cup, where he and Seattle Slew turned back several challengers, including Affirmed, only to be caught in the final strides by Exceller.

The jockeys said they’ve seen many changes in the sport over the past three decades; the development of the Breeders’ Cup being one of the most positive.  But not all the changes haven been positive.

“I think we have some major hurdles to overcome as an industry,” Day said. “I think we need to embrace and promote our product. This is a great game.”

And if they were still riding and could select just one horse to team up with, they all agreed; Curlin, the reigning Horse of the Year.