Eddie Delahoussaye and Laffit Pincay Jr. retired, not of their own choosing, but because they had to. It was a matter of living out the rest of their lives in relatively good health or not. Injuries suffered in riding spills were so serious, had they chosen to continue riding after healing, subsequent mishaps could have caused paralysis or death.
As much as each loves racing, their decision to hang up their tack was a no-brainer. Racing, particularly in Southern California where each made his home for years, is the worse for it.
In addition to their infinite riding skills, their presence is dearly missed. The jockeys’ room has lost its aura, one that was replete with stability and experience. Those cherished qualities can not be replaced. Already, new faces are holed up in the jockeys’ room cubicles that Delahoussaye and Pincay occupied for years.
The place isn’t the same without Pincay, who was odds-on to be the first rider in the room even if his first mount wasn’t until well past first post time. His regimen was written in granite, like his constitution. A nap, a few bits of chicken, a crossword puzzle and some inane chatter from a 10-inch color TV were all Pincay required to prepare for his passion.
Delahoussaye held court in his corner of the room with his easygoing, homespun Cajun humor, innocently butchering syntaxes and metaphors on occasion. His colloquialisms are the stuff of legend.
Pincay takes life easy these days, while Delahoussaye looks for a good horse, not to ride, of course, but to recommend for purchase. As a bloodstock agent, he gleans a commission.
Pincay is 57. Delahoussaye is 52. Each has put on unnoticeable pounds since retiring, which they are entitled to do after years of dieting to maintain their riding weight.
Pincay might have ridden off into the sunset had injuries not forced him from the saddle. Delahoussaye had spoken of retirement more than once shortly before he called it a career.
"I don’t really miss riding," said Delahoussaye, who still undergoes therapy for his injured neck. "It’s out of my system now and I know I can’t go back, so there’s no use agonizing over it. You’ve got to let it go sooner or later."
Delahoussaye recently visited Pincay. "He’s doing good," Delahoussaye said of his Panamanian pal. "He exercises and watches a lot of TV. But we’re going to try to go fishing. He loves it so we’re going to do that."
With apologies to Ernest Hemingway, call them "The Old Men and the Sea."
Laffit and Eddie D. deserve all the good times they can muster, but as much as they miss racing, racing misses them more.
Still, life goes on.
But it ain’t the same.
THE HOMESTRETCH: Look for Pete Rose to soon be back where he loves to be--in action--as a horse owner. The greatest player not in the Hall of Fame lost Fort Point, a horse he owned a piece of, through a claim on opening day at Santa Anita, but Rose now owns part of another horse, Massoun, due to run as soon as trainer Bob Hess Jr. can find a race for him. "The horse is a 4-year-old Irish-bred maiden that ran about four times and was second and third a couple times in France," Hess said. "(Bloodstock agent) Hubert Guy brought the horse over. Arbitrage Stable owns a piece, Jim Scibelli owns a piece and so does Pete. I was going to run the horse last Sunday but he bumped himself in his stall so we passed. But he should be one of the favorites to win in the next maiden route older grass race that goes. The horse was bred by the Aga Khan." The Hess barn was one of the hottest of the meet through the first 18 days with six wins from 19 starts, a 31 percent winning average . . . Ryan Fogelsonger, explaining how he remained eligible to win an Eclipse Award as top apprentice rider of 2003 after winning the same honor for 2002: "When I won it last year it was for the last six months. I still had the first six months of 2003 to qualify for the award again and I lucked out and made it. No one’s ever even been nominated twice let alone won it twice so it would be quite an accomplishment.". . . Gary Stevens is not nervous about hosting the Eclipse Awards next Monday: "I’m excited about it and looking forward to it," he told me. "I’ve been doing guest speaking engagements for 15 years and this is not going to be a whole lot different from doing that. I’ve got some big shoes to fill of the people who have hosted it in the past, so I’m honored to be asked to do it." Stevens, who drew positive revues in his natural acting debut for his portrayal of George Woolf in "Seabiscuit," is proud that the film recently received a SAG (Screen Actors Guild) nomination for best cast ensemble. The Hall of Fame jockey said he would "know something" shortly on another possible acting opportunity.