Willie Shoemaker at Exhibition Park, Vancouver, an autographed print drawn by J. Neilly dated May 13, 1985 via ebay. This was Willie’s second visit to Exhibition Park, as described in this 2003 tribute written by the Province writer Tommy Wolski:
During his riding career, Shoe visited Exhibition Park twice. In 1977, the chance to see this living legend lured 11,537 fans to the track. Not only did his fans see him ride, they bet $1,018,306. It was the first million-dollar weeknight in the track’s history.
Shoe did not let his admirers down — he won two of four races.
His final visit to Vancouver came May 13, 1985. He arrived at Exhibition Park on a rainy night, believing it was only to promote his book, Shoemaker: America’s Greatest Jockey.
After visiting the jockey’s room, he learned he was expected to ride in four races. In typical Shoemaker style, he didn’t complain. Instead, Shoe asked if he could borrow some riding gear to fulfill an agreement he had not even made.
He borrowed a pair of boots from jockey Mark Walker, riding pants from Dave Mylrea and a saddle from Pat Burton. To while away the time until his first ride, he asked several valets and jockeys if they were interested in playing some cards.
While playing, Shoemaker received a phone call from management, requesting him to join them for a small party. He graciously turned them down and continued playing cards until it was time for him to ride.
When the night was over, Shoe thanked everyone in the jockey’s room for making him feel at home and said goodbye.
Oh, he also autographed Burton’s saddle…