He looks like a saint and rides like the devil. He is Desmond Sandford (Sandy) Hawley, a long-haired, 105-pound Canadian jockey who has just won his second North American riding championship. Once again he has brought in more winners (367) in a year than all the big-name jockeys: Shoemaker (172), Pincay (289), Baeza (129). Yet Sandy Hawley is little known in the U.S. While other top riders are congregating under the palms at Santa Anita and the Miami tracks, Hawley works the cold, often drear, Bowie meeting in Maryland. There the bettors love him. They should—his winning percentage is an astounding 29.6. There are many who bet on Hawley, not the horse, a considerable tribute inasmuch as the rule of thumb is that the horse is 80% of the race and the jockey 20%. In Canada, Hawley is such a hero that Toronto once celebrated Sandy Hawley Day, going so far as to give the 23-year-old rider a motorcade, and. when he showed up at Laurel last December midway through the meeting he boosted attendance to such a point that grateful track officials actually named a race in his honor. In hero fashion, Hawley won that event, too.
The Canadian will ride between 1,500 and 2,000 horses in 1973, hoping to win 500 races, something no jockey has done in a year. (The record is 485 by Shoemaker in 1953.) After Bowie, Hawley plans to head home to ride at Greenwood, Woodbine and Fort Erie, all near Toronto. On off days and nights he will take mounts at Blue Bonnets in Montreal, an hour away by jet. He may come back to the States during the summer and expects to ride at the fall meeting at Laurel.
There are those who declare Hawley has yet to prove himself a top jock, never mind the top jock, because he does not compete regularly at New York or Florida tracks. For all his wins, Hawley's mounts earned only $1.3 million in 1972 while Pincay, for instance, rode winners of $3.2 million. However, Hawley did appear as an apprentice one winter at Hialeah and did very well indeed—he was the first bug boy to be the leading rider. In Canada Hawley has performed superbly in the best competition. He has ridden in the Queen's Plate twice and won twice. He has ridden in the Canadian Oaks three times and won three.
Hawley's style is distinctive, especially in the stretch. He bounces up and down a lot and sits farther back in the saddle than other jockeys. Pictures of a Hawley photo finish often are startling. At first glance it appears that he has lost, because his body is completely behind that of the rival jockey, but the nose of his horse usually has hit the wire first.
As a jockey, Hawley has several notable attributes, not the least of which is courage. Chick Lang, who was Bill Hartack's agent and who says that Hawley reminds him of the early Hartack, recently remarked in the
Daily Racing Form
, "The other day at Laurel, Hawley was riding over a very hazardous track which might have caused others to conveniently cancel their mounts. Hawley was spilled twice that day and was pretty well banged up, but he came back to ride his mounts the next day. That's the mark of a champion."
Hawley also has acumen. "He can foresee things," says his agent, Colin Wick. "He's not perfect. Understand, nobody's perfect. I've seen him win races he should have lost and lose some he should have won, but he's won more than lost. Jim Fitzsimmons used to say that the only difference between a good jockey and a bad one is that a good jockey doesn't make as many mistakes."
For all his mod looks and dress, Hawley is a young man with old-fashioned manners, polite and well-spoken. There are trainers who don't like the length of his hair, but no one complains of the size of his head for all his success. Hawley's wife Sherrie is far removed from the typical jockey's doxy seen in the movies and sometimes in real life. A pert, intelligent brunette who used to ride show jumpers in Canada, she met Sandy while working as an exercise girl at Fort Erie. Recently, to Wick's horror, Hawley joined Sherrie and Kathy Kusner in jumping horses on a Sunday. "Busman's holiday," said Hawley. He has been teaching Miss Kusner, a member of the U.S. Equestrian Team who has been riding at Maryland tracks, how to switch a whip from her right hand to her left and to her right again during a race—a skill many jockeys never learn. The secret is to use the mouth as the transfer point.
Hawley's development as a rider follows classic lines. He grew up near the National Stud Farm in Ontario, the son of a lab technician in Oshawa. Despite his size (5'2"), young Hawley played every sport he could as a child. In grammar school he was a first baseman and batted third in the lineup. He was a goaltender in hockey. In high school he had the audacity to go out for varsity football, but, he admits, "they ran me off after two practice sessions." In his first and only year of high school wrestling he came in second in the 98-pound class, All- Ontario.
Almost always in the back of his mind was the idea of becoming a jockey, largely because an uncle, Web Bride, used to tell him, "I'm going to make a rider out of you." Hawley says, "Up until the time I was 16, I would bother my uncle all the time, asking, 'When are you going to take me to the racetrack?' "
One day Uncle Web called up Duke Campbell, a trainer at the National Stud Farm. Campbell told Uncle Web to bring his nephew over for inspection. When they went, Campbell carefully looked at Hawley's hands and feet and then announced, to Hawley's joy, "I don't think you'll grow an awful lot, so I'll give you a chance."