Sunday, October 19, 2008

Hawley picks up 6,450th career win at 59

By BETH HARRIS, AP Racing Writer

ARCADIA, Calif. (AP)—Back in the saddle at age 59, Sandy Hawley led all the way aboard Tribal Chief to earn his 6,450th career victory in the Living Legends race at Santa Anita on Saturday.

Hawley and seven other Hall of Fame jockeys came out of retirement for the race that officially counted in their career totals and was specially approved for legalized parimutuel wagering.

The riders’ combined career earnings totaled more than $1.5 billion from 49,164 victories. None of their mounts Saturday came close to matching the quality of the horses they rode to numerous Triple Crown wins over the years.

But the race was more about getting a chance to return to their previous lives for a brief time.

“It was like an `E’ ride ticket at Disneyland back in the day,” said Gary Stevens, who like Jerry Bailey, now works as a TV racing commentator.
Added Chris McCarron, “That was such a blast.”

Hawley and Tribal Chief took the lead out of the gate and went on to a 6 1/2 -length victory in the seven-furlong race. They were timed in 1:21.03 over the track’s new synthetic surface, made up of chunks of black rubber and fibers.

Bailey finished second aboard Dee Dee’s Legacy, paying $5.20 and $3.60. Scandalous and Stevens were third and paid $4 to show.

Pat Day was fourth, Julie Krone fifth, Jacinto Vasquez sixth, McCarron seventh and Angel Cordero Jr. was last. Cups of water were handed out to the thirsty riders in the winner’s circle.

“I would’ve liked to be on Sandy Hawley’s horse,” said Vasquez, second-oldest in the field at 64.

As he waited to guide Tribal Chief into the winner’s circle, Hawley poured a bottle of water over his horse’s neck and then drank some himself on a hot day.

Hawley, a Canadian known for his prowess at winning while on the lead, got plenty of laughs from his fellow retirees when he dismounted by leaping off Tribal Chief.

“The horse dragged me around there real nice. It’s a great thrill,” he said. “I’ll have to find out when he’s running back. Maybe I can get the call.”

Hawley looked slim and trim in his gold and navy blue silks that featured a trumpet emblem, signifying owner-brothers David and Herb Alpert, who led the Tijuana Brass and co-founded A&M Records.

“This guy got more out of a horse than any rider I know,” said Laffit Pincay Jr., whose career was ended by injuries that prevented him from participating in the race.

Mounts were drawn by lot, and each horse carried, ahem, 126 pounds. Stevens had to lose 15 pounds to make the riding weight. More than just protective vests bulged under the silks of a few riders.

“I miss it, oh yeah, I do,” McCarron said. “More than ever, actually. The camaraderie, the excitement, the exhilaration, just the thought of going out there and riding again is very exciting.”

Tribal Chief paid $7.80, $4 and $3.20 as the 5-2 wagering favorite.

“I was a little skeptical until I saw the day. It’s a great turnout,” said winning trainer John Sadler, who also saddled fourth-place finisher Swift Demand. “The main thing we wanted was for everyone to be safe.”

Everyone except Krone won at least 4,000 races in their careers.

As the jockeys were introduced before the race, Bailey carried a chair into the winner’s circle for Cordero to sit on. At 65, Cordero was the oldest rider and the only one eligible for Social Security. He still gets on horses as an exercise rider for trainer Todd Pletcher in New York and is the agent for jockey John Velazquez.

“It was fun to participate with all these guys,” Cordero said. “When you do it every day, you stay fit.”

McCarron, who runs a jockeys’ school in Kentucky, touted his services for next weekend’s Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita.

“I rode in an exhibition race a year after I retired. It didn’t refire me,” he said. “Son of a gun, this did. Is there anything open next Friday or Saturday? I’m here. I’m not going home until next Sunday.”

The riders were warmly welcomed by fans, who called out their favorites’ names.

“It was fun,” said Krone, a mother of one. “The fans made it special. It was a beautiful day.”

The race was intended as a one-time kickoff event to Breeders’ Cup week, but that may change.

“A couple riders came up and said, `Let’s do it again next year,”’ said Sherwood Chillingworth, director of the track’s Oak Tree meeting. “It was a return to old times we wish we had.”

Hawley said if he’s invited he’d come back to defend his title.

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