- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
When we went into the turn I was in a perfect position, perfect. Now the dirt's hitting me in the face and I have a handful of horse. This horse could run. He was really a much better horse than what he was running against, and I can hardly see where I'm going. Now I can do one of two things: I can stay back there, blinded, with a handful of horse, but I'm afraid I'm going to run over somebody. The only way I can pull my goggles down is to release my reins a little. I just can't pull them back, so it must have taken me a sixteenth of a mile to get my goggles down and by this time we're halfway around the turn. When I looked up, I was on the lead.
To this day I don't know where I came through—on the inside or around the horses. After I had gone to the lead and got my goggles down, I glanced around and took ahold of my horse. I don't think I ever hit him. I just sat there and talked to him. I mean, I didn't talk to him actually. I guess I was talking to myself more than anything else, and he just galloped in the race and paid $18.40. That was my first winner. I rode my first race on October 11, 1952, and I broke my maiden on the 14th of October. It was the third horse I had ridden, and that was the beginning of my career.
I tell you, that boss of mine was just too much. He couldn't do for himself what he could do for someone else. He never rode himself, but between Junie Corbin and his foreman, Charlie Wright, they absolutely taught me.
I only rode the last six or seven days of that meeting, but with seven winners I ended up fourth top rider. George Stidham, who is now my secretary, was top jock there with something like 22 winners. After that week I knew my boss was gonna keep on riding me, and I couldn't let him down. I mean, I just couldn't keep on fighting him. He put everything on the line for me, and he told me everything. He instilled in me the kind of confidence that would help any young jockey starting to ride. He wouldn't tell me I made a mistake—I knew when I'd made a mistake. He would wait and beat around the bush and see if I'd admit to my own mistakes or spot them. Often, after I told him I'd made a mistake, he still wouldn't agree with me. He'd say, "Yeah, but you couldn't help it." Or something like that. It's pretty hard to explain how he did it, but he knew how to handle a young kid and get the best out of him. All I know is that after that I did everything in my power to be good.
Junie Corbin gave me some rules that I've never forgotten. He said, "The most important thing, you be sure you're on your toes leaving the gate." There's a dozen things that you can be on guard about in the gate. Little bitty trivial things that a horse will do that will get you off just a split second faster. There's so many things and if you overlook them, sure, you may get away with it. But if you're on your toes 100% of the time and look for everything and have your reflexes working and your mind working, there's so many little things that you can do. It's phenomenal. That's why a lot of riders just never go anywhere, 'cause they do just the thing on the surface. This is one thing Junie taught me. He said, you just be on your toes at all times. Don't pretend that you're on your toes, don't think that you're on your toes. Know that you're on your toes.
Another thing he taught me was that the shortest way home is a rail. Absolutely the shortest way home is a rail; just keep that in mind no matter where you're at in a race. Always be prepared to go to the rail—always be prepared. You may never go to the rail—you may never have the opportunity—but be ready to go there at all times. Be prepared when other riders are not.
There are other things he told me that have made me. "Whatever you do," he used to say, "even if it appears that your horse is beat, just don't give up." Equally important was what he told me about honesty: "Bill, racing is a very funny business. I don't have to tell you, I think you know it, but I want to emphasize it again that the main thing is to be honest. If you do your best on every horse that you ride, no matter where you finish, you'll never have to worry about looking somebody in the face. You'll never have anything to worry about. You may finish last and you may hate it. You may finish fifth and you maybe should have won, and there's nothing wrong with making a mistake. But there is something wrong in not trying." I promised Junie Corbin that no matter what happened, if I never made anything out of myself, that I would never ever do anything dishonest as far as riding is concerned.
It has often been said about me that I am as conscientious about riding the last race at Tropical Park as the Kentucky Derby. Well, I believe the man who owns the cheap horse deserves the same treatment as the man with a good horse. I would consider it dishonest to try harder on one man's horse than on another.
Junie also told me never to be afraid to stand on my own two feet. "You've got to make a decision one way or the other, and if you think you're right, make them prove you're wrong," he said. "You're gonna get repercussions. Don't take a stand on anything unless you're sure. If you're not sure, say you're not sure. But if you believe something to be a fact and if you back down, you're gonna be just like everybody else. Make them prove you're wrong. You can get a line on how good your opinions are this way, because if you're proven wrong more times than you're proven right, then you better damn sight learn. You're gonna learn to be a little more careful about what you say."
What he said was the truth, too. After about 18 months with Junie, I didn't see him much for a while. He stayed at the half-milers when I moved on to the mile racetracks. And then there was all the garbage with the newspapermen, and everything. The first time he saw me again he said, "Bill, what are you doing? The papers read like you're a different person. These write-ups sound like you have really changed in the last couple of years. Everybody was boosting you the first year and a half you were riding. Now look what's happened. You're getting a lot of dirt thrown back in your face."