"No, I'm not going to postpone my retirement," said the winningest jockey in history. "Not even if Charlie Whittingham came to me and told me he had another Ferdinand for me to ride. Feb. 4 is it."
Shoemaker, whose farewell tour will end Feb. 4, when he accepts his final mount at Santa Anita Park, will ride four horses this afternoon at Philadelphia Park.
They are Fifi La Boom Boom, 5-2 favorite in the program odds in the first race; Assault Leader, 5-1 in the fifth race; Ron Stevens, 4-1 in the eighth race, the $35,000 Garrison Handicap, and Drone's Dash, 5-2 favorite in the ninth race. Shoemaker did not ride in any races yesterday.
Asked if he had thought about following in the footsteps of Bill Hartack and Eddie Arcaro by becoming a television commentator, Shoemaker replied, "I guess I'd do it if somebody asked me, but it's never been one of my ambitions."
Shoemaker arrived at Philadelphia Park shortly before noon yesterday and signed autographs for fans in the lobby. He then attended a luncheon at which Philadelphia Park general manager Robert Bork presented him with a plaque honoring him for his four decades as a jockey and for his services to thoroughbred racing.
Shoemaker has ridden only one horse in the past at Philadelphia Park, but
neither he nor any member of the track's staff could remember even the year the ride took place. "All I remember is that it was a cold day, and that my horse didn't win," the jockey said.
He will fly to Pittsburgh and ride tomorrow at nearby Mountaineer Park in West Virginia, then return to California. He'll fly back East next week to ride at Monmouth Park next Saturday afternoon and Atlantic City Race Course the same night.
This fall, Shoemaker's farewell tour will include Australia, New Zealand and the Far East. The itinerary has not been completed.
In addition to the Garrison Handicap on today's program, Philadelphia Park will have simulcasts of Monmouth Park's $200,000 Sorority Stakes (grade III), the 11th race, and the $250,000 Whitney Handicap (grade I) from Saratoga, the 12th and final event.
Easy Goer, carrying only 119 pounds with Pat Day aboard and meeting older opponents for the first time, looms an odds-on favorite for the Whitney at 1 1/8 miles. His main rivals are Forever Silver, winner of the Brooklyn Handicap, and Cryptoclearance, whose victories this year include the Hawthorne Gold Cup and Widener Handicap.
Colleen Stakes winner Chrissy's Secret, a roan daughter of Northern Jove trained by Ben Perkins Jr. and ridden by Julie Krone, is the 5-2 early favorite for the six-furlong Sorority.
Delaware Park also will have simulcasts of the Whitney Handicap and Sorority.
The $125,000 San Diego Handicap at Del Mar will be simulcast to Atlantic City race course; the favorite in a field of five is Lively One of the Charlie Whittingham stable.