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In fond memory
Bill Shoemaker, one of horse racing’s greatest jockeys and a distinguished member of the Laureus World Sports Academy, died at his home near Santa Anita Racetrack, California in October 2003. He was 72. Shoemaker, who rode four Kentucky Derby winners, was for more than 40 years a commanding presence in thoroughbred racing. He had been paralysed from the neck down since 1991 after a car crash, but he continued training horses despite being in a wheelchair.
Shoemaker, popularly known as “The Shoe”, had held the record for career victories from 1970 until 1999, when Laffit Pincay Jr. overtook his 8,883 wins. In his career he won 11 Triple Crown races and ten times topped the US prize moneylist. He earned more than $123 million in purses for the owners of his horses.
Edwin Moses, Chairman of the Laureus World Sports Academy, said: Bill was a true sporting legend and a giant in his sport. His name had a resonance with racing everywhere in the world. He was a great supporter of the concept of the Laureus Academy. Because of his limited mobility following his accident, he was not able to do as much as he would have liked, but he always had a keen interest in the work of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation. He will be much missed.
Shoemaker first started to ride in Winters, Texas, where his grandfather was a ranch foreman. On March 19, 1949, he had his first public ride and, barely one month later, he ran in his first winner. By the end of his debut year, he had collected a total of 219 winners in his first year, which placed him second overall in the US.
The following year he went one better and tied for first place after riding 388 winners. Shoemaker then proceeded to head the race-win standings in 1951, 1953 (when he set a single year record of 485 wins), 1954, 1958 and 1959.
In 1955, he won his first Kentucky Derby at the age of 24 and he went on to win the famous Triple Crown race three more times during his career. He in fact became the oldest jockey ever to win the race at the age of 54. In the other two Triple Crown events, he won the Preakness Stakes twice and the Belmont Stakes five times. After being given a Special Award in 1976, he won the Merit Award in 1981 - the same year that he was declared the Eclipse Outstanding Jockey.
After his illustrious career finished in 1990, he began life as a trainer, only to have that avenue cut short by the car crash in which he was paralysed. He also acted as honorary chairman of the Paralysis Project and also served as director of the Shoemaker Foundation, which provides support to those injured in horse racing.