Updated on 09/17/2011 9:44AM

Long ride is over


ARCADIA, Calif. - Eddie Delahoussaye wanted to ride through the end of 2002, then ride into the sunset. But an accident last August at Del Mar altered his plan and sent him to the sidelines. On Monday night, he decided to stay there, announcing his retirement after nearly 35 years as a jockey.

Delahoussaye, 51, said the head and neck injuries he suffered from a fall during a race more than four months ago were still too troublesome for doctors to clear him to ride again.

"The doctors said I would have to do more therapy. It's just taking longer and longer," Delahoussaye said from his home in Arcadia, Calif., near Santa Anita. "They said it's too dangerous, with the concussion and the neck fracture. It's a culmination of everything. I was hoping I was naive about it, but I guess this is the best thing for me. The last couple of months, it's been setting in. This is the right thing to do. I'm disappointed, but I'm a realistic person."

Delahoussaye had a final round of consultations Monday with a physical therapist and a neurologist. Then he had a late lunch with his wife, Juanita, came home and let the reality sink in, and started calling a few friends to give them the news.

Delahoussaye had not ridden since taking a frightening fall in a race at Del Mar on Aug. 30, when he suffered a hairline fracture in his neck and a concussion. Despite extensive physical therapy, he had not progressed enough to get medical clearance. He said he was tiring of the routine of physical therapy, especially since there was no guarantee he would ever again be cleared to ride.

"That was the fifth concussion I've had - that I know of," Delahoussaye said. "I would have gone back. But the doctors advised me not to go back to race riding. They said if I did fall and hit my head again, I could be walking around like Muhammad Ali, or end up in a wheelchair."

Delahoussaye's retirement ended a Hall of Fame career in which he rode 6,384 winners (11th on the all-time list) from 39,213 mounts for earnings of $195,881,170 (sixth all-time). He is one of only four jockeys to win consecutive runnings of the Kentucky Derby. He won seven Breeders' Cup races and 14 riding titles at meetings from Arlington Park to Santa Anita.

His retirement comes just seven months after the retirement of Chris McCarron, another Hall of Famer and mainstay of the Southern California jockey colony.

"I'm going to take some time off," Delahoussaye said. "I'm going to go to Louisiana for a month, then come back. There's a few things I've been thinking about. I love going to sales, looking at horses. I love yearling sales. I want to do something for the industry. I want to stay involved. Maybe I can help an owner."

One thing Delahoussaye said he did not want was an elaborate retirement ceremony. He watched the anguish McCarron went through on the day of his final ride last June and said he did not want to put himself in that cauldron of emotions.

"I don't need all that. It's too hard," he said.

Delahoussaye was born in New Iberia, La., and began his career in Louisiana. He was a slow starter despite riding as a youngster in match races at bush tracks. Although he rode his first recognized race at Fair Grounds in December 1967, he did not win one until June 28, 1968, at Evangeline Downs.

Over the next decade, Delahoussaye established himself as a force in the Midwest. He won riding titles at Arlington Park, Churchill Downs, Fair Grounds, and Keeneland. In 1978, he led the nation in victories with 384. He also won that year's all-star jockey competition at Hollywood Park, which helped whet his appetite to move west.

The following year, Delahoussaye moved to Southern California, and his national profile rose. He won the Kentucky Derby in 1982 with Gato Del Sol, then again in 1983 with Sunny's Halo, becoming the fourth jockey to win the Derby in consecutive years. The others who have accomplished that feat are Isaac Murphy, Jimmy Winkfield, and Ron Turcotte.

Delahoussaye won the Preakness and Belmont stakes with Risen Star in 1988. In 1992, he was the regular rider of A.P. Indy, whose victories in the Santa Anita Derby, Belmont Stakes, and Breeders' Cup Classic propelled him to the Horse of the Year title.

Delahoussaye won seven Breeders' Cup races. In addition to A.P. Indy in the Classic, he won the Juvenile Fillies with Pleasant Stage (1991), the Sprint with Thirty Slews (1992) and Cardmania (1993), the Turf with Prized (1989), and the Distaff with Princess Rooney (1984) and Hollywood Wildcat (1993). On Hollywood Wildcat, Delahoussaye lost his whip in the stretch run, but resourcefully waved his bare hand next to the filly's right eye to urge her to the wire.

In Southern California, Delahoussaye won riding titles at all three major tracks - Del Mar, Hollywood Park, and Santa Anita, where he reigned at both the major winter meeting and the Oak Tree fall meet.

Delahoussaye was inducted into racing's hall of fame in 1993. He earned the 1981 George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, which is presented annually for combining skill on the track and character off it. Last year, Delahoussaye was inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.

His career statistics put him among the greats. When Delahoussaye's mounts reached $100 million in career purse earnings in 1991, he was only the seventh jockey to reach that level. When he won his 6,000th race in 1999, he became the 14th to do so.

Delahoussaye's career ebbed in 1994, when he started suffering from sinus problems, which prevented him from flying and affected his balance. After surgery to correct the problems, he had a renaissance, winning major races while riding sparingly.

Delahoussaye was known for his even keel. As such, he was loath to brag about his accomplishments. He was just as quietly effective off the track. In 1992, Delahoussaye received a car for winning the Belmont Stakes. Instead of taking it, he asked Chrysler, which then sponsored the Triple Crown, to donate $20,000 among three charities: the Shoemaker Foundation, the Don MacBeth Memorial Jockey Fund, and the Jockeys' Guild Fund for Disabled Riders.

His compassion comes in part because he and Juanita, his wife of 31 years, have tended to the needs of their daughter, Mandy, 27, who is mentally handicapped. "We take her wherever we go," Delahoussaye said in a 1993 interview, "and if people don't like it, sorry."

The Delahoussayes also have a son, Loren, 24.