On Tuesday afternoon at Santa Anita, hundreds gathered on what is usually a "dark" afternoon for a special memorial service to honor Bill Shoemaker, who passed away just a week and a half ago. In attendance were many of racing's greats from past and present, paying their respects to a man who was an inspiration to them as well as a friend.
Several of the speakers had a difficult time keeping their composure while at the podium, and some had to cut their speeches short because they were unable to continue and overcome with grief. One of the most emotional moments was when retired jockey Laffit Pincay Jr, who passed Shoemaker's world record for most wins recorded by a jockey, proclaimed the Shoe as the "greatest jockey ever". Gary Stevens and Chris McCarron had similar experiences with Shoemaker, as they each came to California as young riders and suffered the wrath of the Shoe's initiations. But they became the great riders they are, by competing with and learning from Shoemaker. A common theme in many of the speeches was that the Shoe was a presence in any room. He acted like he was six feet tall instead of his four feet eleven inches.
Recently retired jockey Eddie Delahoussaye read a poem, an excerpt of which appears below:
"If my parting has left a void,
Then fill it with remembered joy.
My life's been full,
I savored much good friends,
Good times, my loved one's touch
Perhaps my time seemed all too brief
Don't lengthen it now with undue grief
Lift up your heart and share with me,
God wanted me now, He set me free!"
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