Only four feet, eleven inches tall and weighing just ninety-eight pounds, Bill Shoemaker was one of horse racing's smallest and lightest jockeys; he was also one of the most successful riders in the history of the sport. During a career than spanned four decades, Shoemaker tallied more than 40,000 starts and 8,833 winning rides, with repeat victories in the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes. Just twenty-three when he won the derby crown in 1955, Shoemaker was fifty-four when he rode to his fourth and final derby victory in 1986. Unlike some jockeys who whipped and harried their mounts to the finish line, "The Shoe" was admired for his ability to guide his horses through his skillful use of the reins and bit. As a contemporary observed, "If one needed the blueprint for the perfect jockey, [Shoemaker] would be it."
Commissioned by the Shoemaker Foundation, Inglewood, Calif.; gift 1996 to NPG