Eddie Delahoussaye is part of a long list of successful jockeys who hail from Louisiana in the United States. He was born in one of the remote communities of Cajun country and learned how to ride horses before many children his age began to attend school. Over a career that lasted an amazing 34 years, Eddie amassed over 6,000 professional wins. Most of those wins came on the tough California circuit against top-notch competition.
From New Iberia to Santa Anita
In the small community of New Iberia, Louisiana, horses are a way of life. The people there still ride them, and they have a love for racing. Not so long ago it was still common for the Cajun people to host unsanctioned events at so-called “bush tracks” where horse owners brought their best horses to compete in match races against one another.
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The young Cajun boys learn how to ride when they are very young, and the smaller ones are almost predestined to become jockeys. Randy Romero, Calvin Borel, and Corey Lanerie are just a few men who came from South Louisiana and went on to have phenomenal careers. But you could argue that the most successful of them all is Eddie Delahoussaye.
Delahoussaye was born on September 21, 1951. His family was involved in the horse business. By the time he was a teenager, Eddie already had several years of experience in riding and working with race horses. He decided to begin his professional career close to home at the Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans. This was a leap of faith for the young jockey. Many riders from the state prefer to begin at smaller tracks like Evangeline Downs, but Eddie set his sights on major circuits from the very beginning. The year was 1968 when the 17-year old rider made his professional debut.
For the next eleven years, Eddie Delahoussaye would pay his dues to become a journeyman rider in Louisiana, Kentucky, and Illinois. His success was not immediate. The horses Eddie rode did well, but he could not seem to capture the attention of the most successful trainers. Yet, the persistence of the young jockey was starting to reap some rewards. He rode well and he rode often, and by 1978 he had become the leading winner in the nation with 384 victories.
As much as Delahoussaye loved riding in his Louisiana home, it was apparent that true success would not come until he positioned himself to ride the best horses in the country. That meant making a choice. He could go northeast to the New York circuit. He could strike out for Florida. Both were good choices, but they also presented a problem. In the winter months the rider would either have to contend with the frigid environment of Aqueduct in New York, or he would have to battle the toughest jockeys and trainers in Florida. A third option was heading west to California. The competition there would also be tough, but Delahoussaye could stay put year round. He could also forge relationships with Triple Crown trainers who regularly appeared in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes. Eddie chose the Golden State.
Success in California Horse Racing
It wasn’t hard for Delahoussaye to pick up mounts in California. He was coming into the circuit as the leading winner in the United States. Trainers wanted him from the very beginning, and Eddie had something that few jockeys possess: a patient hand.
The specialty of Eddie Delayhoussaye was keeping horses off he pace and making a run at the leaders in the late stages of a race. His timing in this regard was near perfect. He was able to get a horse to relax and wait, something that is not easily done.
Trainers brought him their best horses including Gato Del Sol and Sunny’s Halo. Eddie would ride both of them in the Kentucky Derby, winning the event two years in a row in 1982 and 1983. In 1981, the jockey also notched a second-place finish in the Derby. In the following years he would also add wins in the Belmont Stakes and Preakness Stakes to his list of accomplishments.
Another trait possessed by Delahoussaye was beginning to be recognized. He displayed amazing character both on and off the track. As a result, Eddie received the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award in 1981.
The End of a Legendary Jockey Career
You can ask any jockey and they will tell you that horse racing is a game of numbers. Ride enough races and sooner or later you will be hurt. Eddie Delahoussaye had suffered his share of injuries throughout his career, but the one that would end it came in 2003 at Del Mar Race Track. The rider suffered injuries to his head and neck that forced his retirement from riding. It had been a long 34-year journey, and Eddie had stood in the winner’s circle 6,384 times. His earnings were $195,881,170.
Eddie would be inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1993. He was also inducted into the Fair Grounds Racing Hall of Fame in 1991 and is a member of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.
Delahoussaye remains active in the thoroughbred racing industry today as a bloodstock agent who assists owners in purchasing horses at auction.
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