(PRWEB) April 17, 2005
Last year, Smarty Jones captured the hearts and attention of sports fans all over the country and almost single-handedly invigorated the sport of horse racing. The anticipation for this MayÂs 131st Kentucky Derby at Churchhill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, is breathlessly growing. Famous horses like Smarty Jones and Seabiscuit receive much of the sportÂs recent accolades, but what about racingÂs often unheralded jockeys?
In the 1920s and 1930s, famous jockeys were sports figures that would rival the fame of todayÂs sports stars like Shaquille OÂNeill, Cal Ripken, or Brett Favre. Over the years, there have been literally tens of thousands of jockeys racing on AmericaÂs turf, but only ten managed to capture the Triple Crown, racingÂs most highly-coveted prize. One of the most celebrated of these jockeys is Earl Sande, who won the second Triple Crown in 1930 on Gallant Fox.
This year marks the the 75th anniversary of SandeÂs Triple Crown triumph as well as his third Kentucky Derby and fifth Belmont Stakes victories. Historians and racing fans all over the country are remembering the brilliant career of Earl Sande.
ÂFew jockeys were as good as Sande and certainly nobody was ever better,Â says national turf historian and the leading authority on the history of horse racing, Tom Gilcoyne. After rising from the ranks of the leaky-roof circuit, Sande became horse racingÂs top jockey in the 1920s.
During his career, Sande ranked as the top-money winning jockey in 1921, 1923, and 1927. His winnings in 1923 set a record that stood for 20 years. His feat that year is even more impressive when you consider that Sande did not even participate in winter racing and thus rode hundreds of fewer races than did other jockeys.
ÂIn a time when America is short on heroes, Earl Sande stands for hard work, the pursuit of excellence, and pure integrity,Â says Richard J. Maturi, author of the recently published Triple Crown Winner: The Earl Sande Saga, the first and only book to recount SandeÂs story in detail. ÂEven though he was one of the countryÂs biggest sports heroes during the Golden Age of Sports in the 1920s, Earl never let his stature on the track interfere with his relationship with people.Â
As he researched Sande for his book, Maturi found himself fascinated with his unique subject. ÂSande was the least likely person to become a famous jockey,Â Maturi says. ÂHe was so tall the other jockeys called him ÂLongback.ÂÂ His riding style also stood out from the field. ÂWhile other jockeys routinely used the whip to get the most of their mount, Sande used it sparingly and sung Italian opera to his horses,Â Maturi says.
Not only did Sande ride many famous horses, he also won races on many longshots that were considered mediocre. Sande won significant races with as many as ninety-two different horses. ÂIt really didnÂt matter what horse he was riding,Â Maturi says. ÂThe fans put their money on Sande.Â
In 1924, Sande suffered a severe injury and was told that he would never ride again. Tragedy struck again in 1927 when his young wife passed away. ÂDespite these tremendous obstacles, Sande never gave up,Â Maturi says. ÂThrough sheer determination and willpower, he overcame both of these tragedies.Â
SandeÂs acclaim in the new millennium is growing. On February 17th, the South Dakota State Legislature issued a Commemoration of Sande and the release of MaturiÂs book. The Idaho Legislature also issued a Proclamation honoring Sande and the book on March 18th.
Due to the popularity of the Oscar-nominated movie, Seabiscuit, casual racing fans always ask about SandeÂs links to the famous horse. Unfortunately, the two racing icons never met on a race track as Sande retired as a jockey before SeabiscuitÂs run. However, he did train Stagehand, who bested Seabiscuit in record time during the Santa Anita Handicap. To this day, Sande ranks as the only person to ever achieve top money-winning honors both as a jockey and a trainer.
SandeÂs lifetime in-the-money percentage of 60.9% ranks at the top of all Hall of Fame jockeys. Red Pollard, famously portrayed in the Seabiscuit movie by Tobey Maguire, is not even in the Hall of Fame. Off the racing track, Sande may eclipse Seabiscuit as well.
Based on MaturiÂs biography, a movie about the life of Earl Sande is currently in the works. ÂNo sports hero ever had more panache than Sande, but this great adventure tale is no long shot,Â says Ed Hotaling, author of numerous horse-racing books. ÂSandeÂs story will make a stupendous film.Â As SandeÂs saga rides onto the silver screen, we will finally get to see him get his just due here in the modern era.
For more information or to set up an interview with Richard Maturi, please contact Jay Wilke at 727-443-7115, ext. 223 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Books and photos available.