California racing fans lost their most popular rider when Eddie Delahoussaye retired on Jan. 13 due to injuries suffered in a spill at Del Mar last Aug. 30.
The 51-year-old Hall of Fame jockey is one of only four riders to win the Kentucky Derby in consecutive years, accomplishing the feat on Gato del Sol in 1982 and Sunny’s Halo in 1983.
But if it hadn’t been for some outlandish requests by Angel Cordero Jr., Eddie D. never would have ridden Sunny’s Halo. That’s the story from David Cross, who trained Sunny’s Halo. Cross tells the following yarn of how Delahoussaye got the mount.
"First of all, I thought it would take an act of God to get Sunny’s Halo beat (in the Derby), I really did," said Cross, who trained for 44 years. "That’s how confident I was. Having Eddie on the horse gave me all the confidence in the world, too.
"Larry Snyder had been riding the horse, and Larry had ridden for me for years, in Chicago and Detroit, and won a lot of races for me. He was a friend of mine and I was a friend of his and his family in Arkansas. He rode the horse in the Rebel and I was naturally going to put him back on the horse in the Arkansas Derby.
"We’d go out to dinner together and he was a very, very dear friend and it hurt me badly when I did have to take him off the horse. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I had trained for Mr. Foster (Sunny Halo’s owner, David J. Foster, who raced as D.J. Foster Racing Stable) for years, and he called me and said, ”˜Dave, I’ve never interfered, which he hadn’t, but you think so much of this horse, I’d really like to have a Kentucky Derby rider on this horse, somebody who’s ridden in the Kentucky Derby.’
"The first thought that came into our minds was to get Angel Cordero (Jr.) in the Arkansas Derby and then in the Kentucky Derby. We contacted his agent, Frank Sanabria, who told us what it would take to get Cordero: ”˜I’ll come down and ride the horse,’ Sanabria said, ”˜but there’s no guarantee we’ll ride the horse in the (Kentucky) Derby. We’ll ride him in the Arkansas Derby, but we want $10,000 up front, besides the 10 percent (winner’s share) if the horse happens to win. We want a private jet to fly into Arkansas. We don’t want to be driving down from Little Rock, because you have to fly into Little Rock and then drive to Hot Springs, because it’s not a commercial airport. We want the jet to wait for him, because Angel doesn’t like waiting at the airports.’
"I said, ”˜You know what? Go (bleep) yourself.’ Just like that. ”˜I don’t need this.’ I told Mr. Foster, ”˜If Cordero wasn’t such a great rider, he’d still be back in Puerto Rico on the side of the street eating rice and beans.’ They put that in the papers--man it created a ruckus. Anyway, Cordero and I became very, very dear friends after that and he rode for me often.
"So I phoned California. I thought of Delahoussaye, because he had ridden some horses for me that winter at Santa Anita and he had just won the Derby the year before, so I asked Mr. Foster, ”˜How about Delahoussaye?’ and he said, ”˜Yeah, get Delahoussaye if you can.’ I was still upset about the Snyder bit, but I was letting him (Foster) call the shot here because he was such a wonderful owner. Eddie just fell into the mount.
"I finally reached Craig O’Bryan, who had Eddie’s book at the time. Craig was just a kid. He said, ”˜We’ll think about it.’ I said, ”˜Would you please call me back?’ but he never did. Now it’s getting close to the Arkansas Derby. Finally, I contacted him again and gave him an ultimatum, and that’s how Eddie came to ride Sunny’s Halo. He won the Arkansas Derby and the rest is history."
THE HOMESTRETCH: Explaining the removal of Mike Smith in favor of Jerry Bailey from undefeated Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champion Vindication and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies runner-up Composure, trainer Bob Baffert said simply that Bailey has first call on his horses "when he’s available." The grass wasn’t greener for Smith through the first 24 days at Santa Anita, where the jockey was winless in 33 rides on the turf. Two other riders who were not hot were Isaias Enriquez and Chance Rollins, a combined two for 88. Enriquez had been 0 for 42 through 21 days before winning two races last Thursday to make him two for 51 through Saturday, but Rollins was still winless in 37 tries.
. . . Look for another turf monster in the not-too-distant future from the Neil Drysdale barn in Storming Home, an English-bred son of Machiavellian presently "cantering" at Hollywood Park. The 5-year horse finished 15th in the Japan Cup last Nov. 24, but is expected to embellish his overall record of 5-4-3 from 19 starts when he surfaces in the United States.