Now into the second quarter century of his riding career, Eddie Arcaro has ridden approximately 20,000 races or, to look at it differently, a half dozen times across the continent at full speed on horseback. His racing style is a sequence of skilled reflexes performed with the second nature that a man acquires in tying his necktie. Every athlete must acquire it before he reaches the grace which makes him unmistakably proficient; and in the case of Arcaro it's been a long time since anyone was able to fault the proficiency.
Easy to recognize as that proficiency is, to make it readily intelligible in words and pictures is something else again. And that is the problem Arcaro, Robert Riger and Whitney Tower set for themselves in the five-part series on The Art of Race Riding which begins in this issue.
Riger began drawing horses some years ago, lured as artists traditionally have been by the graphic challenge they offer. Tower has been close to horses all his life (he is named for his grandfather, Harry Payne Whitney, whose Regret remains the only filly ever to win the Kentucky Derby). Even so, for Arcaro, Riger and Tower this series took 18 months. Riger studied and sketched Arcaro in 212 separate races at eight different tracks from Belmont Park to Santa Anita to Hialeah. Different tracks and horses demand different techniques; one track and one race would only have scratched the surface. As the project developed, Tower and Riger joined Arcaro in extended conferences; drawing by drawing and step by step Arcaro worked out the captions which explain the art of race riding.
The decision to present the story with drawings rather than photographs came from the fact that some of Arcaro's action eludes even a slow-motion camera. But an artist can set his stage and stop the action where he wants—if he knows what he is stopping. The sketch below is one example of how Riger knew. Arcaro is putting on a "laboratory demonstration" outside the jockeys' room at Saratoga to explain "crossing," or shifting the whip from one hand to the other, a key move of which he is the acknowledged master. Holding the bit: Whitney Tower.
June 16, 1957
Next week SPORTS ILLUSTRATED begins the account of a race Arcaro never rode, the synthesis of all he has ever ridden, which now will become part of the record of a remarkable jockey and a remarkable part of the record of racing.