Eddie Arcaro Remembered
1916 - 1997
Eddie Arcaro, one of the all-time great jockeys, passed away on Friday November 14, 1997. He rode for 31 seasons (1931 through 1961) and was known as "The Master" because of the superb riding ability. He won a total of 4,799 races and rode horses that earned $30.3 million, which was a record at the time. He rode two winners of the Triple Crown, Whirlaway (1941) and Citation (1948) and five Kentucky Derby winners total. He also rode six Preakness winners and five Belmont Stakes winners. Arcaro was elected to the Racing Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, NY, in 1958.
Arcaro was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1916 and his family moved to northern Kentucky, near the old Latonia race-track when he was 11. He became a stablehand there and was eventually hired as an apprentice jockey. After getting little encouragement at Latonia, he moved to California to try there. He lost 45 races before getting his first victory on January 14, 1932, at Agua Caliente racetrack in Mexico. In 1934, the Calumet Farm stable bought Arcaro's contract and he became their regular rider which is when his career took off.
He was known to be a bit hot-headed and served a one year suspension starting in 1942 after he deliberately knocked jockey Vincent Nodarse over the rails in retaliation for an earlier bump in the Cowdin Stakes. Instead of making excuses in hopes of a lighter sentence, Arcaro said, "What I really meant to do was kill that Cuban SOB." The two eventually reconciled and became close friends.
On April 4, 1962, Arcaro formally announced his retirement, although he had stopped riding in 1961. He rode a total of 24,092 races and reportedly was a millionaire.
In an interview a year before his death, Arcaro said, "I don't kid myself. I got the chance to ride the best horses and that was the difference. You take the best horse in any race and put one of the 12 best jockeys on him, and you know that horse will come through."
As a tribute to Arcaro, here are a few photos and a video from my collection.
Whirlaway and Eddie in the winner's circle of the 1941 Kentucky Derby
The Swaps vs. Nashua match race from 1955 which was won by Eddie aboard Nashua. This is from an old newsreel film that I own. You can view another video here that has Arcaro commenting on the race while it is played back from a TV interview years later.
There were several games put out with Eddie's endorsement. This one is Eddie Arcaro Sweepstakes from 1954.
The Master's rid'n faster yet
I can't hold myself together
hearing that the Master's gone
If he rode like the wind
he flies like an eagle now
Fly on little wing
I just wanted to share a memory I have of Eddie Arcaro. When I was in junior high, one of my teachers happened to live next door to Eddie. I wrote up a list of questions (very amateurish), and my teacher gave them to Eddie and asked if he would be kind enough to answer them. He answered each and every one of the questions, regardless of how silly they may have been, and then he signed his name after the final question on the last page. I will always think of him as a man who was generous enough to take the time for a young horse racing fan. I am saddened to hear of his passing.
I wanted to share a memory of Eddiie Arcaro, affectionately known as "Banana Nose".
Looking at the posted photo of a cheap claiming race at Belmont Park in 1959 I saw "the master" out over the winning horse's shoulder, extending his whip under the horse's chin to coax his nose to the wire first.
Thanks for the memories Banana Nose.
- Arcaro bio from the Racing Hall of Fame
- Arcaro obituary - from Wikipedia
- Top 100 Athletes of the Century bio - Arcaro is #66 on the list, nice article.
- Jockeys' Guild Leads the Way for Safety - Eddie was one of the founders of the Jockeys' Guild.
- Whirlaway - Eddie's first Triple Crown winner
- Citation - Eddie's second Triple Crown winner
- The Horses of Calumet Farm - Eddie rode many of these horses
All photos from my personal collection.