Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

email signup Blog Video Facebook Twitter Instagram

Eddie Arcaro

Eddie Arcaro, the most celebrated jockey in America, winner of 5 Kentucky Derbys and 22 million dollars in purses over a 25-year career, talks with Wallace about horse racing, gambling, drugging of horses, and the pressure to win.

Watch Video

Guest: Eddie Arcaro

WALLACE: Good evening. What you are about to witness is an unrehearsed, uncensored interview. My name is Mike Wallace. The cigarette is Phillip Morris.


WALLACE: Tonight we go after the story of horse racing, jockeys and gambling from the most celebrated jockey in America. You see him behind me, he's Eddie Arcaro, winner of five Kentucky Derbys and twenty-two million dollars in purses in the past twenty-five years. If you're curious to hear what Eddie Arcaro thinks of bookies, bettors and legalized gambling, if you want to get his opinion of the best horses of our time and if you'd like to know what kind of man Eddie Arcaro is off the track, we'll go after those stories in just a moment. My guest's opinions are not necessarily mine, the station's or my sponsor's Philip Morris Incorporated but whether you agree or disagree, we feel that none will deny the right of these views to be broadcast.


WALLACE: And now to our story. Eddie Arcaro is the front runner in the "Sport of Kings", horse racing which last year drew track attendance of more than fifteen million racing fans. The biggest money winning jockey of all time, Eddie Arcaro admits to making at least two hundred thousand dollars a year for getting his mounts across the finish line first. ...Matter of fact, he's so good that when he loses the two dollar bettors boo him off the track and grumble that he wasn't really trying. Eddie, first of all let me ask you this. I'd like your candid reaction to a fairly typical attack on horse racing. I quote from an article called "Horse Players Die Broke" written by Dennis Sprague in World Magazine back in October of Nineteen forty-four. Mr. Sprague wrote as follows: He said "No sport has attracted the leech-like affection of the shifty crook, the glib bottom dealer, the homicidal racketeer, the unscrupulous fixer, the reckless hothead with criminal intent, the slimy cheat, the cheap chiseler, the bombastic wise guy and the plain louse that racing has." End quote. What about it?

ARCARO: Well, I’ve never heard of this fellow. What did you say his name was?

WALLACE: Dennis Sprague, World Magazine, which I believe is now defunct.

ARCARO: Well it should have been defunct before he wrote that but -- racing certainly couldn't be that bad, Mike, and stand up under your racing commissions and the protection that racing has given itself inwardly.

WALLACE: I suppose he's talking principally about off track betting and the kind of people who are attracted therefore on track because of booking establishments and one thing and another.

ARCARO: Well of course I have to I have to agree with one thing, that people come to the race track to bet, the majority of the people anyway.

WALLACE: If gambling at tracks were banned Eddie, what kind of future do you think that you and horse racing would have?

ARCARO: Well I don't want that to happen because I'll be out of business, I don't want that to happen, Mike.

WALLACE: You think you would be out of business?

ARCARO: Without gambling?


ARCARO: Oh certainly, I definitely think, I don't think that it would survive without gambling.

WALLACE: Well now, what's all this talk then about the "Sport of Kings" and bettering the breed, improving the breed and some of the high sounding phrases that we hear bandied about, about horse racing and have for many years?

ARCARO: Well the "Sport of Kings" racing was the "Sport of Kings" but it isn't any more. Racing belongs to the public and many people that own horses aren't very, very wealthy people. There are many people that make a living out of owning and racing horses. The "Sport of Kings" goes way back into England but since it's been brought and made a business of in this country, it certainly isn't the "Sport of Kings".

WALLACE: All right. Then it is a business?

ARCARO: Certainly, it's big business.

WALLACE: And as far as you're concerned you think that probably the tracks would go bankrupt if gambling were not permitted. Now why? What I -- This is the thing that seems to me difficult to understand. As far as horse racing or dog racing is concerned, you can bet; but this is the virtually the only sport in which betting is permitted. For what reason?

ARCARO: What reason? Well let's be fair about the thing. The State of New York last year derived fifty or sixty million dollars in revenue from flat racing alone. I don't know what it took from the trotters so the states need racing. I think they need racing. If they didn't have that revenue, it certainly would mean an added taxation on the public...

WALLACE: Then you think that --

ARCARO: ...that's number one.

WALLACE: Number one, OK.

ARCARO: Racing, as I say, the states need racing for the revenue.

WALLACE: Well why should racing get preferential treatment? Why should that sport get preferential treatment over baseball, or football or hockey, or whatever?

RCARO: Well I don't think baseball has ever asked for Mutuels, have they?

WALLACE: Well I imagine that the betting fans, the baseball fans probably would love to have some kind of a betting commissioner for baseball if it was legalized.

ARCARO: Well all the states then are being cheated, Mike, because in a recent Gallup Poll that was taken, racing out of every dollar bet in the United States, racing received seven percent of the dollar, the rest was bet on baseball, football, hockey, all of the other sports took the other ninety-three percent.

WALLACE: And most of it illegally bet?

ARCARO: Naturally it's illegally bet. The states aren't deriving any revenue from it at all.

WALLACE: As far as you're concerned, would you like to see betting legalized for these other sports?

ARCARO: Well I don't know enough about it and I'm not qualified to answer that, but I do know that racing is the only sport that does contribute to the states and the government.

WALLACE: When you say you're not qualified, I'm not asking you as a legal authority, I'm just asking as far as you're concerned, as a human being what is your opinion, do you think that we should have, should be permitted?

ARCARO: Well I believe this, Mike, that if the people are going to bet the money that the state is certainly entitled to the revenue from gambling.

WALLACE: That's not the point that I'm making. Do you believe that we should be permitted to bet legally on baseball, football, et cetera, et cetera?

ARCARO: Yes. I know if I was betting I'd rather be betting it legally than illegally.

WALLACE: And you think that they should have that opportunity, we should have that opportunity?

ARCARO: Absolutely.

WALLACE: I'd like to read you a statement, Eddie. And I want to know if you honestly can say that you disagree with it entirely. It was made by a spokesman for the majority of the Protestant Churches in New York State, the Reverend Paul Rochelle and I quote from the New York Times of October twelve, Nineteen fifty-four: Reverend Rochelle said "We are opposed to gambling of all kinds. It is a moral evil. When you attach a monetary value to something that has an element of chance it has a demoralizing effect." And he concludes by saying "Gambling is the scourge of modern life in the United States." Do you think that he's completely wrong?

ARCARO: Well I think he's completely wrong, naturally I do. They're--they gambled way before our time, Mike, and they're going to gamble when you and I are long gone.

WALLACE: But you're not you don't suggest that it has a beneficial effect upon society to gamble, do you or do you?

ARCARO: No, I don't think it has a beneficial effect. I don't think that it hurts anybody. I know my I love to have my children go to the races which they're allowed to in California. They're not allowed to in the State of New York on account of the age limit but I don't it hasn't bothered them. I think that racing is a good clean sport.

WALLACE: Would you like, now I'm talking about gambling, not specifically racing but gambling. Would you just as soon that your youngsters bet on baseball games, or football games, or turtle races?

ARCARO: Well I don't -- they're not they're not old enough to understand the gambling part of it but they like it and I think that as they grow older that any sport that is a competitive sport gives you more of a thrill when you gamble.

WALLACE: Its been suggested that gambling can have it's been suggested by the Reverend Rochelle, that gambling can have a demoralizing effect though. This is what I'm getting at. Here you are, one of the greatest athletes of our time but you've just admitted that you depend for your living upon gambling and gambling has a demoralizing effect according to the Reverend, this

ARCARO: It hasn't demoralized me.

WALLACE: We'll get back to it again after a while. When you're upon a horse you know that hundreds of thousands of people at the track around the country are either betting for you or against you. Some of them may, not very many of them, but some of them may even risk every cent they have. Does that bother you?

ARCARO: Well it doesn't bother me, Mike. No, my end of the business isn't on the gambling end. Of course, I'm riding for a percentage of the purses put up, but Mike, I don't advocate anybody going to the race track losing money that might hurt them. I think that people who go to the race track and bet the two dollar the two dollars and I think racing feels that way too, they'd rather have people that go there and spend the days where it would cost them ten or fifteen dollars as you would go -- to come to New York and have dinner and go to a picture show. In other words, you just pay for the day's amusement.

WALLACE: What do you think of a man of average means who bets on the horses to make money not just for the sport of it or for the fun of it, but to make money?

ARCARO: Well he hasn't got much chance, I don't think.

WALLACE: What do you mean by that?

ARCARO: Well he's got sixteen percent taken away from his money before he bets, Mike, so breaking it right down he's at a disadvantage. He doesn't have much chance of winning or breaking the bank of any kind.

WALLACE: Do you bet?

ARCARO: No, I don't bet, but as I say, I'm working on a percentage basis and that's gamble enough.

WALLACE: Do many jockeys bet?

ARCARO: Not any more, Mike, not in this new era of jockeys. I've been riding a long time, twenty-five years, and I did go through an era where the jockeys did bet a lot of money but none of them wound up with anything. All the betting jocks wound up broke.

WALLACE: After you lose a race, Eddie, it's common practice for the fans to boo you; maybe some of them even curse at you. Does that bother you at all?

ARCARO: It did at one time in my life, Mike. It affected me terribly, but I think the fellow that helped me more than anybody that I...that I know of now is "Old Granny Rice", who wrote a poem about me. I think the name of it was entitled "Eddie, They Never Boo A Bum." It kind of helped me out.

WALLACE: They boo you I'm told I'm not that much of a race fan, but they boo you because some of them feel that Eddie Arcaro is out to win and if he feels that he can't win then he's not particularly interested in placing or showing because there's no pay-off to you on a place or show race therefore unless you're really up there you don't take care of their place and show bets as hard as you might.

ARCARO: Well naturally, Mike, when people lose their money they have a lot of different thinking, but my percentage shows that I've been in the money over a period of twenty-five years, fifty percent of the time so I couldn't have been pulling up out of the place and show very often.

WALLACE: We'll get back again to some of this a bit later, Eddie, but now if I may, I'd like to find out about Eddie Arcaro specifically and jockeys in general. In your autobiography, "I Ride To Win", you wrote this, you said "I was never robust and when other kids of my age were choosing up sides for baseball and football, I was left out because I was too small." Did you become a jock because horse racing was one of the few sports where a little man can be big?

ARCARO: I believe so. I couldn't compete in football or baseball in school and plus the fact that I was raised in Kentucky, that had a little to do with it.

WALLACE: You mean to becoming a jock? You're about five-two, I believe.

ARCARO: Five-three.

WALLACE: How much do you weigh?

ARCARO: Well right now I guess I weigh about a hundred and ten.

WALLACE: Are you I don't suppose anymore but were you pretty sensitive, are other jockeys sensitive about being short, about being light?

ARCARO: No, I'm awfully glad that I was short. I don't know what I would have done if I had of been tall; I'd probably been pushing a banana cart or something, Mike.

WALLACE: Is that where "Banana Nose" came from? I understand that you that's your nickname.

ARCARO: No, it didn't come from that. Don Meed, who was a jockey back about ten years ago, and a very good one, nicknamed all jockeys and hung "banana nose" on me, which isn't too hard to see why.

WALLACE: Yes, I understand. How much schooling did you have, Eddie?

ARCARO: Eighth grade.

WALLACE: You talk like a man who's had considerably more. Is it because having won all the money that you have won over the years and therefore traveled with certain kinds of people you've been exposed to a different kind of education?

ARCARO: Well, I think that I'm worldly wise, that I have had a wonderful education, and naturally being a celebrity in my life I have met wonderful people and affiliated with them that's helped me, and naturally I read quite a bit. Besides the racing form.

WALLACE: Do you socialize a good deal with other jockeys?

ARCARO: Not very much, Mike. Racing, riding is a competitive sport and I don't socialize with them for many reasons. I don't run away from it but in riding, naturally, the secret is getting on the best horse. Well, how do you have dinner with a jockey tonight and get on if he happens to be on a good horse, what we call "summering him out of the mount." So I avoid that and I don't socialize with the jockeys.

WALLACE: You mean, in a sense, you compete for business.

ARCARO: That's absolutely right.

WALLACE: And your business is getting the best horses.

ARCARO: Getting the best horses.

WALLACE: Just the way anyone of us competes for business.

ARCARO: Same way. I have an agent and we try to keep track of all the good horses throughout the United States and when one of them comes up we all fight to get on him.

WALLACE: Of course I know, this is going to be dull stuff maybe to horse fans, but there are lots of other people looking in too, if I'm not prying too deep, then you tell me when I do. I'd like to know the economics of a jockey's life. First of all, you got a horse, last night for instance, or yesterday, you went out to California to run in the "Del Mar Futurity" which you won. And I believe the winner's take was about $40,000. You get how much of that $40,000?

ARCARO: Ten per cent, Mike.

WALLACE: In other words, you make $4,000 for riding that race yesterday.

ARCARO: That's right. It took a minute and nine seconds.

WALLACE: For the $4,000. And is it accurate when I say that you make about $200,000 a year?

ARCARO: I'll gross about that out of riding, yes.

WALLACE: For how many years have you done that?

ARCARO: Well I've, of course...racing has just become big this big rather in the past fifteen years, since 1940. The purses have become real big. Before that the purses were small, but I think in comparison to buying power jockeys, top jockeys always were highly paid athletes, the highest.

WALLACE: In other words, your purses of $22 million odd over the last quarter century is it?

ARCARO: Right.

WALLACE: Your take has been about 2 million 200 thousand out of that money.


WALLACE: The average working jock, does he get his expenses paid when he goes to, How does it work? How are jockeys paid?

ARCARO: Jockeys are paid $20 for every mount they ride and they get $25 if they're third and $35 if they're second and $50 for a winner. But the winner generally gets 10 per cent of the purse excepting in your big races like your futurities or the Garden State where the purses are so big place and show they generally get 10 per cent back.

WALLACE: You're 41 years old now?

ARCARO: Right.

WALLACE: You probably have, in spite of taxes and all, a fair amount stashed away. Why don't you retire, Eddie?

ARCARO: Too much fun, Mike, and I haven't got that much money, really.

WALLACE: You have other means of income, do you, in addition to your riding horses?

ARCARO: I've tried about everything, Mike. I'm in the oil business; I have a saddlery; but as I just finished saying, I haven't got that kind of money to ever retire and live the way I'd like to live.

WALLACE: Is racing a dangerous sport for a jockey? The reason I say that is last May 10th the Associated Press reported that a 51-year-old jockey, Claude Hooper, was very seriously injured in a racing accident. Now you're 41, getting along up there. For instance, do you think a 51-year-old man should be allowed to race?

ARCARO: It's according to how good he is. Longden is around 49 or 50 years old, and in fact, he just had his leg broken. But racing isn't really that dangerous; I don't think it is, anyway.

WALLACE: Jockeys are a pretty close-knit circle, are they?

ARCARO: Close-knit? I don't know how you mean that.

WALLACE: You said they're competitive in going after horses but is there a kind of professional camaraderie among them?

ARCARO: Well, they are pretty well close.

WALLACE: What I'm driving at, I don't mean to make it tough for you. Supposing a jock's in a bad slump and he's in financial straits before a race, what is to prevent, seriously, the favorite jockeys in the race from getting together and saying, let's take it easy, let's let Joe take this one?

ARCARO: I don't think jocks think that way, plus the fact that we do have a Jockeys Guild, Mike, that has enough, plenty of money to take care of them kind of riders that are in straits. See what the average public doesn't know, Mike, and we might be getting a little in front of the thing, there are 950 active riders in the United States and I think the average rider doesn't make a living. I really don't believe he makes a decent living.

WALLACE: Is that so?

ARCARO: So you're building it up on my end, but the average rider probably makes about $7500 a year and traveling with the family and everything I actually don't believe he makes a living.

WALLACE: But the jocks just -- they're they're sufficiently selfish and sufficiently hungry all of them, all the time, no matter how much they make.

ARCARO: Tough group of guys.

WALLACE: Have you ever been asked to throw a race?

ARCARO: No, I haven't, Mike, and I don't know. There would be no reason to be asked that. Why would anybody ask you to throw a race? There would have to be a reason for it.

WALLACE: You've never, never been asked to throw a race?

ARCARO: Never.

WALLACE: Let me read something to you, an article about you in American Magazine September '46 called "Mr. Stopwatch Up," by Beverly Smith. Smith wrote: "I asked Eddie' whether he had been approached with an offer of a bribe to throw a race." "Yes," he said, "I have been through that. They tried it more in the old days. Now with odds at the track regulated by the Mutual Machine it's harder for a racketeer to make a killing that way, but they haven't tried it on me for a long time."

ARCARO: Who wrote that, Mike?

WALLACE: Beverly Smith, "Mr. Stopwatch Up," American Magazine, September 1946, quoting you as saying, "Yes, I have been through that."

ARCARO: I've never been approached to pull a horse that I remember.

WALLACE: We're going to talk about the drugging of race horses if it's all right with you, in just about a minute, Eddie Arcaro. We have a quote here from the former chief scientist of the Thoroughbred Racing Association, Dr. John Kader. We'll get to Eddie Arcaro and ask about drugging of horses in just sixty seconds.


WALLACE: Now, then, Ed, what do you think of this charge about drugging race horses to make them run faster. The former chief scientist of the Thoroughbred Racing Association, Dr. John Kader, wrote this in Life Magazine back in January 31, 1955. He said, "Despite all known tests anybody who knows the right drugs can hop as many horses as he wants to at any track in the country and never be caught at it." He goes on to say, "I can only assume that dozens, perhaps hundreds of people in racing do know about these drugs and that they are in constant use day in and day out." What about it?

ARCARO: Gosh, I can't hardly believe that. Mike, for every winner in the United States, there is a saliva test plus a urine test taken of it.

WALLACE: Saliva and urine?

ARCARO: Saliva and urine.

WALLACE: Right after the race.

ARCARO: Yes, immediately after the race, plus another fact that they take either second or third horse in the same race and take saliva and urine test of him. Out of 18 thousand races run last year there were only 50 positive cases found of which none of them were narcotics such as heroin or if they have tried to do something wrong, it was with dexedrine or caffeine, some mild form of stimulant, which I don't believe would make a horse win. I have taken dextrin in my life and I think that a lot of other people have who have been on long airplane trips.

WALLACE: How in the world then, can Dr. John Kader, the former chief scientist of the Thoroughbred Racing Association, make that statement?

ARCARO: I don't know. He should get a stable of horses and see how long he'd last. He probably wouldn't last two days.

WALLACE: Eddie, you're giving racing a pretty clean bill of health. As a matter of fact, when we talked ahead of time, a couple of weeks ago on the telephone to set up this interview, you said in a sense, "Yes, Mike, I'd like to come on in spite of the fact that a lot of people have told me not to come on because I want to do what I can for racing." You once said in the New York Post just this year, in June, "I'll do anything I can for this game. It's been good to me, I owe it plenty. I'll never say anything against it." Could it be you're being influenced by that loyalty here tonight?

ARCARO: No, I don't believe so, Mike. I don't think that racing has anything to hide. I think that racing has really done, went and hired a great organization called the T.R.B.P.A., which has employed or has in its employment 90 per cent of the men out of the F.B.I. organization. I think that they have really done a wonderful job on your ringer cases which they tattoo all young horses, lip tattoo. Every person that owns a horse on the race track is screened before he is allowed to own horses. All jockeys, trainers, grooms are fingerprinted and screened, so I don't think racing has anything to hide. They really went after their own inward self.

WALLACE: One final question. I think it's going to be our final question, and we're coming back to gambling. You say that racing would die if betting, parimutual betting, were to die. What do you think of legalized gambling on a national basis? For instance, a national lottery.

ARCARO: I think it would probably pay off the national debt, if you had a national lottery.

WALLACE: You're all for it?

ARCARO: Yes, I would be for it.

WALLACE: And would you like to see legal betting at baseball games? I'm back at you again on this one. Football games, so forth?

ARCARO: Mike, as long as they're going to gamble, I think you should let them gamble, so that the states, and the government could derive an income from it.

WALLACE: And you think the gangsters can be kept out of it, the racketeers can be kept out of it?

ARCARO: Certainly.

WALLACE: Eddie Arcaro, I thank you very much for coming and spending this time, particularly I thank you for flying back from California last night to be with us here today.

ARCARO: Thank you, Mike.

WALLACE: Right. Eddie Arcaro has in the past told reporters, "I don't need personal publicity and I don't want anyone thinking I set myself up as the last word on what the jocks should do, but I'll tell you what I think, what I do, and why I do it, because I want to do something for racing.' I think you'll agree as a jockey and as a spokesman for horseracing, Eddie Arcaro represents the very best. A rundown on next week's interview and special announcement in just a moment.


WALLACE: Beginning next week and thereafter the Mike Wallace Interview moves to Saturday night at the same time. For our first Saturday night program next week we will go after the story of a man who has entertained America for almost half a century; you see him behind me. He is Georgie Jessel. We will find out what Georgie Jessel thinks of America's sense of humor, why he accepts money for charity performances and why he wants to be the United States Ambassador to Israel. Because prior committments made it impossible for us tonight to bring you an interview that we had planned with Governor Orval Faubus of Arkansas, next Sunday at this time, we'll bring you a special interview with Governor Faubus from the Governor's Mansion in Little Rock, we will try to find out what are the Governor's ambitions, motives, prejudices and, if any, his regrets. We will go after those stories next Sunday. Next Saturday on our new schedule our first guest will be Georgie Jessel. Until then, for Philip Morris, Mike Wallace; good night.

ANNCR: Be sure to read this coming week's cover story on Newsweek Magazine called TV's Mike Wallace and the Hot See an interview and debt of Mike by Newsweek reporters. The Mike Wallace interview is brought to you by Philip Morris Incorporated, the Quality house.