November 15, 1997 in Sports

Horse Racing Legend Eddie Arcaro Dies At 81 Jockey Won Kentucky Derby Five Times, Triple Crown Twice

Associated Press

Eddie Arcaro, whose brilliant career as a jockey included five Kentucky Derby victories and Triple Crown wins aboard Whirlaway and Citation, died Friday of liver cancer. He was 81.

After being hospitalized several weeks ago, Arcaro’s health began to decline rapidly in the last 10 days, his son, Bob, said.

Bob Arcaro said his father was hoping to get back into a saddle one more time.

“It was 10 days ago or nine days ago, he and I went out for a bowl of pasta and a salad,” he said. “We were talking about the jockeys of today, how great they were, how talented.

“He said, ‘I wish I had a shot to ride again soon.’ … It’s something I’ll remember.”

Bob Arcaro said his father wanted to remain at home as his health deteriorated. His wife, Vera, and sister, Evelyn Maggio, of Cincinnati, were at his side.

Nicknamed “The Master,” Arcaro came into prominence as a rider in the mid-1930s and continued near the top of his profession until his retirement in 1961. Along the way, the tiny man with the banana-shaped nose that be came his trademark, rode 4,779 winners, earning purses of $30,309,543.

Arcaro, who became a network television racing analyst following his retirement as a rider, had 24,092 mounts in a career that began in 1931 when he failed to win a race on horses that earned a combined $200.

The 5-foot-3 Arcaro rode his first winner at Agua Caliente in Mexico on Jan. 14, 1932.

But he wound up setting the Derby record with five winners, a mark later equaled by Bill Hartack, and won the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes six times each. Those numbers are unchallenged, and Arcaro is the only jockey ever to ride two Triple Crown winners.

“But I don’t kid myself,” he said when asked to sum up his career. “I’ve been on many of the best horses. Take the best horse in any race and put any one of a dozen or more riders on him, and he’ll come through.”

Arcaro also conceded that by having the best mounts, he was under the most pressure to produce for owners such as Calumet Farms and C.V. Whitney.

© Copyright 1997 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email