DECEMBER 19, 1977
The kid named Cauthen was riding in a horse show one day last summer, on a mount named Apple Fritter, but the crowd at the Boone County (Ky.) Fair hardly seemed to notice. For the Cauthen in the saddle wasn't Steve, the best young jockey Kentucky ever saw, but his three-year-old daughter, Katelyn, who was competing on her pony for the first time in the lead-line class. "She didn't place," says her old man, who just turned 37, "but they gave gold medals to all the kids afterward, so she was happy. She doesn't really know what the places mean anyway."
Give Katelyn time. She's just in preschool, after all, and her dad didn't take horse racing by storm until he was a junior in high school. As a 17-year-old apprentice jockey in 1977, Cauthen rode 487 winners, earned a record $6.15 million in purses and was named our Sportsman of the Year. He saved his finest moment, however, for the following June at the Belmont Stakes. There, 19 years ago, Cauthen coaxed Affirmed to a head-bobbing victory over Alydar to complete his sweep of the Triple Crown.
One year later the Kid was gone, an expatriate. After a disastrous 110-race losing streak at Santa Anita that stretched from New Year's Day to Feb. 8, 1979, he accepted an offer to ride for British racehorse owner Robert Sangster and spent the next 14 years mastering the European turf courses. Three times England's leading jockey, Cauthen became the first rider to win the world's four major derbies—Kentucky, Epsom, French and Irish—before returning home to Kentucky in 1992.
Today, when not playing golf or doing promotional work as the associate vice president of Turfway Park racetrack, in Florence, Ky., Cauthen repairs to his 300-acre farm in nearby Verona, which he shares with his wife, Amy, their daughters—Katelyn, now 4, and Karlie, 19 months—and a stable of six horses. Recent additions include a broodmare and a newborn colt, the start of Cauthen's small but serious entry into the breeding business. "One thing that made me proud about winning the Triple Crown was that it drew a lot of people to racing." he says. "But racing has fallen behind, and we need to attract new fans. Anything I can do to help, I will."
He won't return to riding, though there have been offers. "The competitive edge is still inside me, but I've lost the desire to lose weight," says Cauthen, who grew four inches between '78 and '81 and fought to maintain his 119-pound racing weight. "If I didn't have weight problems." he says, today a comfortable 138, "I'd race until I was 50."