Born in Texas in 1931 and weighing only 38 ounces (1.1 kg), Bill Shoemaker (1931-2003) was so small at birth that he was not expected to survive the night. He was put in a shoebox in the oven to stay warm and did survive. He remained small, growing to 4 feet 10 inches (1.47 m) and weighing only 91 pounds ( 41 kg).

Referred to as “Bill”, “Willie”, and “The Shoe”, his small size ended up being an advantage in his life long career in thoroughbred horse racing. For 29 years, he held the world record for total professional jockey victories and accumulated a career high 8,833 wins over 41 years that he raced in the saddle.

Shoemaker’s record was broken on December 10, 1999 by Panamanian-born Lafita Pincay Jr. (born 1946), who accumulated 9,530 career victories.

Shoemaker won numerous races including the Kentucky Derby in 1986 when he became the oldest jockey ever to win the race at age 54. He rode 40,350 horses and won 11 Triple Crowns races, 1,009 stakes races, 10 national money titles and five times was the leading jockey by races win,

After retiring, he returned to the track as a trainer but a solo drunk-driving car accident left him paralyzed from the neck down and confined him to a wheelchair.

He went on to author three murder mysteries using his racetrack experience to create his plots.

In 1958 he was honored by induction into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.

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