Eddie Arcaro dreamed of becoming the world's greatest jockey but after watching him ride a horse for five minutes, reality reflected a harsh contradiction. He was awkward and clumsy, and in his early years in the saddle he couldn't do one thing right. He was left behind at the post, he got trapped in traffic jams, he got bumped and boxed in. In his first 100 races he never even came close to winning. Still, he got right back on and tried again.
Even as a schoolboy, Arcaro had set his own track in life. Because he was only a little over five feet tall and weighed barely 80 pounds, the other students shunned him. So he played hooky instead, hanging out at the local race track where a trainer let him gallop the horses. His father reluctantly agreed to let him pursue a career as a jockey, even though he knew it was a long shot. The trainer had told him so. "Send him back to school," he said. "He'll never be a rider."
No one was betting on little Eddie Arcaro, no one that is except Arcaro. He was determined not just to ride, but to become the world's greatest jockey. But first someone would have to give him a chance. He pleaded and persisted until he finally got to ride in a real race. Before it was over, he'd lost his whip and his cap and had almost fallen off the saddle. By the time he finished the race, the other horses were on their way back to the stables. He'd come in dead last.
After that, Arcaro went from track to track, looking for any opportunity to ride. Finally, an owner who felt pity took him in and gave him his next chance. One hundred trophy-less races later, he was still giving him a chance. The trainers saw something in this unlucky jockey, something they couldn't define. Perhaps it was potential, perhaps it was resilience, perhaps it was sheer obstinacy, but no one was willing to send him home. And Arcaro was certainly not going to quit.
There were long years when he was broke, homesick, and almost without friends. There were also many brushes with death and several broken bones. Every time his delicate 63 inch body was trammeled by hoofs he would get patched up and return to the saddle.
Then it happened. Arcaro began to win...and win...and win...Now, instead of leaving a path of destruction, he was leaving a path of devastated opponents. In thirty years of riding, he won 4,779 races, becoming the only jockey in history to win the Kentucky Derby five times. By the time he retired in 1962 he was a millionaire and a legend in his own lifetime.
From the moment he walked out of school and onto a track, Eddie Arcaro had his mind on a finish line. And although the race took thirty years, he never quit until that line was crossed.
Cynthia Kersey is the author of Unstoppable and Unstoppable Women
Copyright 1998 by Cynthia Kersey
Visit Cynthia's web site at: www.unstoppable.net