Biography of Famous Horses and Jockeys: Swaps and Willie Shoemaker

About the famous award winning horse Swaps and his jockey Willie Shoemaker, history and biography.


Jockey--Willie Shoemaker

California breeding was taken lightly in racing circles--before Swaps. The chestnut colt came East in 1955 to take the Derby from favored Nashua. Swaps won 19 of 25 starts in 1955 and 1956, setting 2 world's records in the process. Forced out of competition by a broken leg, Swaps was nursed in a special sling. When he regained his health he was retired to stud. Swaps' son Chateaugay won the 1963 Derby.

Nineteen-year-old Willie Shoemaker came into his own as a premier jockey in 1950, when he broke a 44-year record by riding 388 winners. The "Shoe" was leading money winner 10 times and leading rider 5. In 1953 he rode 458 winners. Still active, Willie is currently the winnigest rider of all time, surpassing Johnny Longden. He has racked up well over 6,500 wins. Despite Shoemaker's great success, one of his more memorable moments came in 1956, when he lost the Derby on Gallant Man because he simply misjudged where the finish line was.

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