02/03/2011 3:25PM

Racing's all-time great trainer-jockey duos

Trainer Charlie Whittingham and Bill Shoemaker won more than 200 stakes together, including Whittingham’s first Kentucky Derby, with Ferdinand in 1986.

Jockeys who ride regularly for certain trainers usually don’t require much prerace help. They talk with one another so much over the course of a season that one horseman can almost finish the other’s sentences. Here are some of the best trainer-jockey tandems:

Charlie Whittingham and Bill Shoemaker
This longtime partnership culminated with Shoemaker, at 54, winning the 1986 Kentucky Derby with Ferdinand and giving Whittingham, then 73, his first win in the race. Twenty-nine years before, Shoemaker and Whittingham teamed to win 29 stakes. “We have the same philosophy about horses,” Shoemaker told Dan Smith, one of his biographers. “We’re in unison about how they should run, how I should ride them, and how he trains them.”

Ben and Jimmy Jones and Eddie Arcaro
The Jones boys, father and son, and Arcaro won many big races for powerful Calumet Farm. Four of Ben Jones’ six Derby winners − Lawrin, Whirlaway, Citation, and Hill Gail − were ridden by Arcaro, and Whirlaway and Citation swept the Triple Crown. Early on, however, Arcaro was afraid of Whirlaway, who had a dangerous habit of bearing out in his races. Jones devised a special blinker for Whirlaway’s right eye, and one morning during training hours, to test the blinker, he ordered Arcaro to ride Whirlaway at full speed between a small hole created by the fence and Jones, sitting on a stable pony. “I don’t think so,” Arcaro said. “You’ve got my word he’ll do it,” Jones said. “Well, if he’s game enough to sit there on that pony while I’m going at him, I’m game enough to try it,” Arcaro said. Whirlaway went through the hole and went on to win the Derby several days later.

Woody Stephens and Eddie Maple
The irony to this partnership is that, because Maple was either injured or picked the wrong Stephens horse to ride, he rode only one of Stephens’s five straight Belmont winners from 1982 to 1986. Maple’s Belmont win came with Creme Fraiche in 1985. Laffit Pincay won three Belmonts for Stephens − with Conquistador Cielo, Caveat, and Swale − and McCarron rode Stephens’s fifth Belmont winner, Danzig Connection. Maple also missed out on possibly winning a Derby for Stephens when their brilliant colt Devil’s Bag was injured and retired just before the 1984 running. Devil’s Bag, with Maple aboard, had won the Derby Trial a week before the Derby.

Jerry Hollendorfer and Russell Baze
For years, this pair has owned Northern California racing. Baze has won more than 11,000 races, and by conservative estimates at least 2,000 of them have been with Hollendorfer horses. “Russell gets himself up for every race,” Hollendorfer said. “I’ve seen him just as excited winning by a nose in a [cheap claiming race] as he is winning by a nose in a stake.”

Todd Pletcher and John Velazquez
This current duo, operating mainly in New York and Florida, is consistently high on the national money list, thanks to Pletcher’s horsemanship and Velazquez’s horsebacking. “John rides well all the time, I think,” Pletcher once said of Velazquez. “And when he’s in top form, he can be sensational, making all the right decisions at the right times. It helps when you have good horses, but it also helps when [he] pushes the right buttons.” Among Velazquez’s many stakes winners for Pletcher is Rags to Riches, who in 2007 became the first female winner of the Belmont Stakes in 102 years.