This is the second in the new TRC series of short Q&A sessions with leading figures in Thoroughbred racing. In What They’re Thinking, we put the same five questions to each subject, and it should take you no more than two or three minutes to read what they have to say. The fortnightly series began with Todd Pletcher on April 17, and today the second interview is with another giant from the annals of Thoroughbred horse racing.
Steve Cauthen is the only jockey to have won both the Kentucky and Epsom Derbys (and the French, Irish and Italian versions) and the only one to have won triple crowns on both sides of the Atlantic (Affirmed took the U.S. Triple Crown in 1978; Oh So Sharp landed the British fillies’ version seven years later). An Eclipse Award winner and three-time British champion, Cauthen now has a farm in his home state of Kentucky. Even though it is 26 years since he retired from the saddle, Cauthen is still only 58 (it is his birthday today as it happens).
Who do you think is the most important figure in the history of racing around the world?
At the moment I would say it’s probably John Magnier. What they’ve done at Coolmore, revolutionising the breeding business, collecting premium pedigrees around the world, has put them at the top of the tree. It’s difficult to pick out any one person as the best of all time, but at this point I’d have to say John Magnier is the most influential and important person in the Thoroughbred industry.
What is your fondest memory in racing?
The 1978 Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park. I had a lot of wonderful moments, but winning the Triple Crown on Affirmed stands out (see video below).
Winning the fillies’ triple crown in Britain on Oh So Sharp [in 1985] was special too. When she won the 1000 Guineas [at Newmarket], beating Al Bahathri and Bella Colora and some great fillies by the shortest of short heads that was another one of my favorite moments (see video at the end of this article). It was my first classic victory for Sheikh Mohammed. That was really when I started riding for him.
Which is your favorite venue and race (anywhere in the world)?
I have different favorite venues at different places. In America, it’s probably Belmont Park, in England it was probably Newmarket. Over in France, it was Chantilly.
One of the races I never won that I really wanted to win was the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. I loved Arc day, the atmosphere, the whole occasion. There’s a lot going on that day. I loved being involved.
Unfortunately, the horses that I rode that had a chance were always running in it as a bit of an afterthought. You have to train for that race specifically. It has to be the aim from about halfway through the season.
If you could change one thing in racing, what would it be?
There are plenty of things that need changing. In the U.S., I think getting a uniform drugs policy is the most important. Basically everyone in every jurisdiction, whether you’re in New York, Florida, California, or wherever, you need to be racing under the exact same rules. Everything should be the same. When it’s this way over here and that way over there, it’s very confusing for everybody.
Worldwide, the priority has to be for racing to try to keep connecting with the younger generation.
What do you see as the biggest challenge racing faces today?
Overcoming apathy. People need to work together if they want to make things better, but so often the different groups in racing seem unwilling to do that. The bottom line is that, to make things better for the fans, for the people who support racing, everyone needs to give a little to make it happen.