"And that," injects Trainer Syl Veitch, "is where riders like Arcaro, Shoemaker and Ycaza best demonstrate their natural superiority."
Most of the successful trainers concentrate on briefing riders on the peculiarities of certain horses rather than on detailed general strategy. "The good boys," says Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons, "you don't have to tell much to, and the others there's no point because they've forgotten it all by the time they reach the post."
"I want to be told exactly what the trainer wants me to do," says Manuel Ycaza, "but I want to know about the horse, too."
"Knowing your horse is as important," adds Shoemaker, "as knowing what the opposition will probably do. Most trainers who ride me make a real point of telling me about every peculiarity a horse may have, such as he likes to bear out or lug in; he rebels against sand kicked in his face if he gets in too close behind horses; he runs freer if you circle the field instead of getting him down on the inside. If you know these things and have studied the form of the field, that's when the trainer will tell me to use my own judgment."
"Top jocks are top jocks because they're supposed to have the best judgment," says Arcaro. "If they rode 100% to orders all the time, the trainers would be the first to complain."
RIDING IN FROM WHERE?
But where are the new top jocks—the new Arcaros, Shoemakers, Long-dens, Ycazas—coming from? Supposedly, the supply of great jockeys is augmented annually by one or two green but ambitious boys rolling into the big time from the bush league circuits. This is hardly true. Few of the good riders who graduated from the half-milers made a name for themselves until they swung around the major tracks for half a dozen years or more. A jockey may learn some horsemanship and a good deal about courage in the bushes, most of that from riding gang-busting, to-hell-with-pace sprints day in and day out. But he still must learn—and he learns it only from a painfully discouraging grind in the big time—that race-riding in its fullest meaning is still a beautiful and skillful combination of competitive instinct, natural ability, disciplined horsemanship and intelligent thinking.
Maybe the answer, as Mr. Fitz suggests, is to change the apprentice rule to allow a boy 10 pounds (instead of the present five) for at least his first 20 winners. This would give the major stables more incentive for using and tutoring and developing young riders.
Another suggestion—and one which The Jockey Club might well consider—is to have an organized jocks' school with a limited enrollment of promising youngsters. An occasional race for apprentices only wouldn't upset the figure boys too much and, God knows, for the rest of us it would be much more interesting than the ninth race.