Eddie Arcaro was born on this day in 1916, the premature son of Italian immigrant parents. He would only reach 5’2″ in his adult life. Being small allowed him to become one of the greatest thoroughbred horse racing jockeys of all time. He won the U.S. Triple Crown twice and was one of the most prolific winners in the racing scene for years. Those who raced with him, referred to him as “banana nose” because of his large nose. It was a term of endearment.
He started his career with horses as an exerciser of the noble animals when he was just 13 years old, making 75 cents a day doing so. At the age of 16 he began racing in New Orleans. He did so well, he was hired as an apprentice for Calumet Farm in Lexington, Ky. His natural ability with horses made him a “horse whisperer” of sorts as he seemed to communicate with them during each of his races. Being a street smart kid, he had what it took to win. He had a natural competitive spirit, but also possessed the technical skills necessary to go beyond competing.
He was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 1958 and only a year later was thrown from his horse and seriously injured and knocked unconscious in the fall. He stated that the helmet he wore actually saved his life. He continued to race after that, but finally after more spills and injuries, retired in 1961. He enjoyed the celebrity that came along with his job, but he really earned his claim to fame. He had a keen sense of becoming connected to the animal he raced and once stated,
“Race riding is as much physical exertion as you want to put into it. You develop strong back and shoulder muscles by pushing with the horse on every stride, by showing him you’re the boss and making him keep his mind on the job.”
Eddie Arcaro proved that his small size worked to his advantage and he made millions in the process of winning. Proving once again, that when you put your mind to something and work hard at achieving it, you can take the prize, no matter what obstacles are put in your way. He died at the age of 81 in 1997.