Rain Before Rainbows

You’ll Never become a Jockey

Kentucky is where most aspiring jockeys go, and that is exactly what this fifteen-year-old did. Eddie Arcaro earned $15 a week galloping horses, but it cost him his pride. His boss, Tom McCaffery, constantly told Arcaro that he was not good enough and would never make a jockey. Eddie hid his tears caused by McCaffery’s comments and kept riding.

Eddie Arcaro on Whirlaway

With a stubbornness that belied his young age, he packed up his meager belongings, dusted the Kentucky dirt off his boots, and headed west to California where he found a job with horse trainer, Clarence Davison. Davison decided to let him ride in his first race on May 18, 1931. Arcaro lost, but it was only his first race. Surely, he would win the next one. At least, that is what he must have told himself as he climbed atop his horse and prepared for the next race, which he also lost. Arcaro had too much grit to give up after a couple of losses. During the next eight months, he vowed not to quit and continued to race. Davison did not lose faith in Arcaro either and kept giving him horses to ride. He saw potential in the rider and after each loss Davidson sat Arcaro down and went over each and every mistake that had been made.

Arcaro would not quit after a dozen losses, not after two dozen losses, not even after a hundred losses. In fact, it would take two hundred and fifty losses to make him quit. No, he did not quit racing; he simply quit losing. On January 14, 1932, a month before his sixteenth birthday, he won his first race. He steadily improved under Davison’s tutelage until 1934 when the jockey cracked his skull, fractured two ribs, and punctured his lung after tumbling off a horse in Chicago. The rider would be out for at least two months, so Davidson decided to sell the rider’s contract to Calumet Farms.

It was a good move. Arcaro recovered quickly and continued racing. Four years later, in 1938, he captured his first Kentucky Derby win. Then in 1941, ten years after he had been told he would never become a jockey, he accomplished what only four jockeys had managed before him: he captured the U.S. Triple Crown with his winning rides on Whirlaway in the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes. History repeated itself in 1948, when Arcaro won the U.S. Triple Crown while riding Citation. Arcaro is the only jockey to have ever accomplished that feat. During his thirty-one year racing career, Arcaro rode in 24,092 races, accumulated 4,779 victories, placed in the top three 11,888 times, and had a record 554 stakes victories. Arcaro’s skill earned him the nickname “The Master” and an induction into racing’s Hall of Fame in 1958, three years before he retired from the sport.


Arcaro quote

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