His signature last-to-first, up-in-the-last-jump victories; his crawling Cajun drawl; and his whimsical sense of humor. Enjoy Eddie Delahoussaye while you can, because within a year, the popular Hall of Fame jockey will retire.
"I think I’m going to hang it up next year unless something changes," said Delahoussaye, known in the racing world as "Eddie D."
"I have no specific date in mind, but it will be some time next year, unless I have a live 3-year-old for the Kentucky Derby or unless I have another outstanding horse that keeps me going," said Delahoussaye, who will be 51 on Sept. 21.
During the recent Santa Anita meet, Delahoussaye expressed his discontent with racing’s endless in-fighting and the plethora of small fields and said retirement was on his mind. Last week, as the Hollywood Park meet wound to a close and Delahoussaye looked towards Del Mar, he could see little light at the end of the tunnel.
"One thing that might keep me working longer is the (slow) economy," Delahoussaye said. "I’m hearing it’s good right now, but the stock market isn’t. I might reevaluate if the economy is bad, but if it’s good, I think I’ll hang it up. It’s getting hard to keep the weight off and I got sick the other day with a bacterial infection (to his sensitive sinuses). It came out of nowhere. The years are starting to take their toll on my body. So I’ll just take it day-by-day, but I’m pretty sure I’ll hang it up."
When he does, he says he’ll have no farewell tour like Bill Shoemaker, and no rousing sendoff like Chris McCarron. "I think I’ll be here one day, gone the next," said the native of New Iberia, La., who has been riding for 35 years. "Not that I’ll disappear from racing. I’d like to do something in the game, maybe train, I don’t know. It depends on what happens in the business."
Delahoussaye doesn’t like the current picture.
"That recent sale in Kentucky was horrible," Eddie said. "It wasn’t a good sign. RNA (reserve not attained, meaning that the minimum money set for a horse on auction by the consignor was not met, thus necessitating the horse to be retained) was very high and that was at a select sale, one of the best sales."
Delahoussaye was referring to Keeneland’s July select yearling sale, which, according to the Daily Racing Form, "closed with overall drops of 33 percent in gross, 31 percent in average, and 30 percent in median."
When Delahoussaye does call it a career, he’ll have no regrets.
"Everything’s been great," he said. "My fondest memories would have to be my first Kentucky Derby win (in 1982 on Gato del Sol; he won in 1983 aboard Sunny’s Halo) and being inducted into the Hall of Fame (in 1993). That meant a lot because my peers not only recognized my riding ability, but my personal conduct, as well.
"I was brought up the right way. My mom was sick a lot so her sister spent a good deal of time raising me. I was never caught up with being in the limelight and all that bull. I didn’t let that get to me. I was never that kind of person. All I wanted to do was achieve, do good and have a great career, and when I got out, hope people would say, ”˜Well, he was one of the greatest jocks ever,’ and not only that, but ”˜a very respected person.’
"That’s all I want. That’s all you can ask for in life, especially dealing in an industry such as racing, because there are so many ups and downs."
No one will dispute Delahoussaye’s hopes.
He is a great rider and good person, and will be remembered as such.
About representing Delahoussaye, his current agent, Ray Kravagna, says: "It beats working." And about Delahoussaye’s out-of-the-clouds finishes, he
adds: "Eddie knows how to time it right to the last second, but it scares the hell out of you sometimes. He’s great to work for. He never complains."
Former jockey and Delahoussaye’s ex-agent, Terry Lipham, put it best years ago: "You don’t have to sell Eddie D."
THE HOMESTRETCH: This opinion from one race track insider: "There seems to be a strong anti-racing bias in both Sacramento and Washington (D.C.), and if that trend continues, it will change the face of racing completely. These are not good times for racing, and it’s similar to the dot.com bust that’s been happening. Bad decisions are like a virus that spreads and everyone starts showing symptoms. I don’t see a lot of questions asked about why some legislation is being passed, or not passed, to help the business. The sentiment of lawmakers is, "Let them eat cake." Including racing in the current anti-gambling bill, inaction in the workmen’s comp debacle and similar diseases are effecting racing negatively. These are tough times on the frontside and the backside." . . . The majority of Thoroughbred Owners of California board members continue to support a Christmas break between the end of the Hollywood Park fall meet and the start of the Santa Anita winter meet, but just how lengthy that it will be remains to be seen. At its July meeting, TOC analyst Wilson Shirley said last year’s one-week hiatus that resulted from the way the calendar fell increased average field size by one horse during the end of the Hollywood meet and the start of Santa Anita. That brought about increased handle. The board agreed that if racing days are reduced, the tracks involved should share equally in the reduction. Shirley’s report on Advance Deposit Wagering showed it is accounting for about 18 percent of total handle and is generating about $18,000 in purse money. With the Hollywood meet ending, TVG was handling about $360,000 a day and Youbet about $80,000. TOC president John Van de Camp said TVG, Youbet and Xpressbet are all taking bets on the Northern California circuit with non-exclusive contracts, the first time the three outfits will go head-to-head.
ADALGISA””Maiden 3-year-old filly by 1997 Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Spinning World is one of two French imports trainer Julio Canani hopes to unleash with success in U.S. debut on Del Mar’s turf course.
MISTER KYBELEE””This Group-placed import from France also is headed to the Canani barn, and the cagey conditioner is as gaga about this one as he is on Adalgisa.
SIGFRETO””Trainer Doug Peterson has this versatile veteran cranked up for the Wickerr Handicap at one mile on the turf on Friday, Aug. 2. Sifgreto took to the Del Mar grass with a victory in the first division of the Oceanside last year and also fancies the Fairplex bullring. He prepped for the Wickerr with a smart seven-furlong move in 1:28 flat at Hollywood on July 18.