Cauthen Back at Derby, Rooting for Another Triple Crown
Churchill Downs, KY (SportsNetwork.com) - Every year, Steve Cauthen's birthday happens right around the time of the Kentucky Derby, which is firmly entrenched on the international calendar as the first Saturday in May.
This year, on May 1, Cauthen turns 55. It is now 37 years since he won the Kentucky Derby aboard Affirmed en route to the Triple Crown. When you do the math, its hits you. Cauthen was only 18 years old when he became the last jockey to accomplish what many regard as the most difficult challenge in sports.
As he returns to Churchill Downs this weekend from his horse farm in Northern Kentucky, Cauthen will work with Derby Experiences (www.derbyexperiences.com), Churchill Downs' travel/experience program for people from all over the world who come to Louisville annually to do Derby Week in a special way. He'll be promoting the sport with media and fans, and rooting for another Triple Crown run so that his favorite sport can once again become the major international story it was when he and Affirmed got it done in 1978.
"I think a horse will win the Triple Crown (again) and this could be the year," Cauthen told the media in a conference call on behalf of the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (PDJF) before the weekend. "American Pharoah or Dortmund may turn out to be the horse that can do what we have been waiting for all these years."
Back in the day, it wasn't so unusual. Jean Cruguet rode Seattle Slew to Triple Crown glory in 1977 and the very next year was even more dramatic with Cauthen and Affirmed dueling Alydar and jockey Jorge Velasquez to win all three races by small margins in a rivalry that electrified the sporting world. Secretariat and Ron Turcotte had their memorably dominant run in 1973. There was a 25-year drought before that with Citation and jockey Eddie Arcaro accomplishing the feat in 1948. In the history of the sport, only 11 horses have won the Triple Crown
"Looking at American Pharoah (the morning line favorite at 5-2), he looks like he could be a freak." Cauthen continued. "The way he won the Arkansas Derby was very impressive. At the same time, Dortmund (the second choice at 3-1) is a really solid horse. I was impressed with the Santa Anita Derby victory. He actually looks like a horse that can continue to improve. It will be interesting. As a whole this is probably one of the best bunches for a long time."
Dortmund jockey Martin Garcia and Carpe Diem (third choice at 8-1) jockey Johnny Velazquez will make an appearance for the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (PDJF) Friday night, less than 24 hours before going off in the Kentucky Derby. They are representing the non-profit at the Fillies & Lilies Party as the charity beneficiary for the Derby Experiences event.
"PDJF has been great to many of the riders," Cauthen offered. "It's knowing that safety net is there. If you get hurt in your mid-20s, you've got a long way to go. They help lots of guys for the remainder of their lives."
The PDJF has distributed over $5 million to some 50 disabled jockeys since its formation in 2006.