Eddie Arcaro dreamed of becoming the world’s greatest jockey. But after watching him ride a horse for five minutes, reality reflected a harsh contradiction. He was awkward, clumsy and he couldn’t do one thing right.
He was left behind at the post, he got trapped in traffic jams, he got bumped and boxed in and every other conceivable or inconceivable mishap was his stock-in-trade and appeared to be his destiny. In his first 100 races he never even came close to winning. Still, he got right back on and tried again. He was determined to cross that finish line in first place.
Even as a schoolboy, Eddie had set his own track in life. Because he was only a little over five feet tall and weighed barely 80 pounds, the other students shunned him or picked on him. So he played hookey instead, hanging out at the local race track where a trainer let him gallop the horses.
Eddie’s father reluctantly agreed to let him pursue a career as a jockey, even though he knew it was a very long shot. The trainer had told him so. “Send him back to school,” the trainer said, “He’ll never be a rider. He’s clumsy, accident prone and just plain unlucky. He will never make a place or show, much less a win.”
No one was betting on little Eddie Arcaro, no one that is except little Eddie Arcaro. He was determined not just to ride, but to enter the winner’s circle. Everyone knew or thought they knew, it was just a matter of time, before even Eddie would see the folly of attempting to pursue a jockey career.
He just didn’t have what it takes. But Eddie was determined. He pleaded and persisted until he finally got to ride in a real race. Before it was over, he’d lost his whip and his cap and had almost fallen off the saddle. By the time he finished the race, the other horses were on their way back to the stables. He’d come in dead last.
After that, Arcaro went from track to track, looking for a trainer that hadn’t heard of him. It wasn’t an easy task. Everyone had heard of him. He was the butt joke of the racing circles. Finally, an trainer who felt pity, took him in and gave him his next chance. One hundred trophy-less races later, he was still giving him a chance.
This trainer saw something in this unlucky little jockey. Something he couldn’t define. Something he couldn’t put his finger on, but he could see it. It was there. Perhaps it was potential, perhaps it was resilience, perhaps it was sheer obstinacy, but he wasn’t willing to send Eddie home. He could see the determination and he wanted to watch, to see how this played out.
There were long years when Eddie was broke, homesick, and almost without friends. There were many brushes with death and lots of broken bones. Every time his delicate 63 inch body was trammelled by hoofs, he would get patched up and immediately return to the saddle.
Then it happened. Eddie Arcaro began to win … and win … and win … Now, instead of leaving a path of destruction, he was leaving a path of devastated opponents. In thirty years of riding, he won 4,779 races. By the time he retired in 1962, he had made his trainer and many a owner, a millionaire and in the process, became a millionaire, several times over, himself. He became a legend in his own lifetime.
From the moment he walked onto a track, Eddie Arcaro had his mind on a finish line. Even when it looked impossible and hopeless to everyone else, Eddie knew he was going across that line. And when he finished, he had crossed it close to 5000 times, making him one of the all time greats, with one little bonus…Eddie is the only rider to win the Kentucky Derby five times.
Cynthia Kersey Author of "Unstoppable" http://www.unstoppable.net "Persistence is Hope With Enthusiasm"