Steve Cauthen was born May 1, 1960 in Covington, Kentucky. Growing up on his family's 40 acre farm in Walton, Kentucky, Cauthen learned about horses from the ground up - mucking stalls, cleaning tack and grooming parents' horses. That -- along with the fact that at age twelve he was still a foot shorter than anyone else in his class at school, led him to dream of becoming a jockey. At sixteen, and with his father's assistance, he managed to take out a licence and ride his first race to a last place finish at Churchill Downs. Mounts were scarce early on, and only after traveling to River Downs in neighboring Ohio did he win his first race on a gelding named Red Pipe.
From there, his experience, skill and confidence grew in leaps and bounds. Within two months he'd won 120 races. Chicago was the next stop, where Cauthen became the second leading rider at both Hawthorne and Arlington Park. In 1977, along with being the nation's leader in wins with 487, Cauthen also became the first jockey to win $6 million in a single season. This earned him not only a cover and Sportsman of the Year title from Sports Illustrated
but also the nicknames "The Six Million Dollar Man" or "Stevie Wonder." The racing industry rewarded him with Eclipse Awards for both apprentice and outstanding jockey.
It was during this meteoric rise that Cauthen was introduced to the horse that would forever define his career - a chestnut two-year-old named Affirmed from the Harbor View Farm Stable of Lou and Patrice Wolfson. Trained by the Hall of Famer Laz Barrera, the team won the Sanford Stakes, but it wasn't until their second race together that Cauthen really felt he was on the best horse he'd ever ridden. All the while a talented competitor - Calumet Farm's Alydar - was making his own headlines that would challenge them to the upmost limits.
Affirmed and Cauthen went out west in their Derby preparation, winning both the San Felipe and Santa Anita Derby while Alydar raced in the east winning the Florida Derby and Bluegrass Sakes. The two would wage epic battles in the 1978 Triple Crown and the rest is legend, with Cauthen piloting the speedy Affirmed to ever decreasing victory margins over the late-running Alydar throughout the spring classics.
Cauthen saw a length's victory in the Kentucky Derby shrink to a neck in the Preakness, and understood that the Alydar team's best and last chance for redemption would come in the grueling Belmont Stakes.
There, in virtual lockstep for the final mile, the two champions slugged it out, with Jorge Velasquez aboard Alydar pressed so tightly to the outside of Affirmed that Cauthen could do little more than hand-ride his determined mount to encourage him. At the wire Cauthen and Affirmed bested their glorious rival by a mere four inches, and Cauthen became the youngest jockey ever to win the Triple Crown. To the present day, they are the last to win the most elusive achievement in the sport..
By the end of the decade, after a knee injury and a growth spurt that left him struggling to make weight, Cauthen began to experience a slump and opted to move his tack to Europe, where jockeys average a higher riding weight. There he rejuvenated both career and confidence, becoming England's leading rider for three years in the mid-80s with wins in all of the most historic Group I events as well as winning the Epsom, French, Irish and Italian Derbies during his 14 year stint abroad.
Marriage and family brought Cauthen's illustrious riding career to a close in 1992. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1994, Cauthen also was awarded the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award in 1984 as well as ABC's Wide World of Sports Athlete of the Year in 1978. Cauthen now owns and operates his own Thoroughbred breeding farm in north central Kentucky and squeezes in
charitable appearances between his daughters' many school activities.
He, like his greatest mount Affirmed, will be forever linked to the sequence of titanic battles of heart and speed with Alydar over three decades removed.
Major Racing Wins
United States Triple Crown (1978)
Affectionately Handicap (1977)
Busanda Stakes (1977)
Excelsior Breeders’ Cup Handicap (1977)
United Nations Handicap (1978)
2,000 Guineas (1979)
1,000 Guineas (1980)
Ascot Gold Cup (1984, 1987)
Epsom Derby (1985, 1987)
Middle Park Stakes (1983, 1987, 1989, 1992)
King George VI, Queen Elizabeth Stakes (1987)
Epsom Oaks (1985, 1988, 1989)
St. Leger Stakes (1985, 1987, 1989)
Grand Prix de Paris (1987, 1990)
Prix du Jockey Club (1989)
Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud (1983-1986)
Grosser Preis von Baden (1983, 1985)
Irish Derby (1989)
Irish Oaks (1988, 1991)
Derby Italiano (1991)
Gran Premio del Jockey Club (1984)
American Classic Race wins:
Kentucky Derby (1978)
Preakness Stakes (1978)
Belmont Stakes (1978)
United States Champion Jockey by earnings (1977)
Eclipse Award for Outstanding Apprentice Jockey (1977)
Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey (1977)
Eclipse Award of Merit (1977)
George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award (1984)
British Champion Jockey (1984, 1985, 1987)
Associated Press Athlete of the Year (1977)
Sports Illustrated - Sportsman of the Year (1978)
National Museum Racing Hall of Fame (1994)
Affirmed, Old Vic, Gold and Ivory, Triptych, Pebbles, Oh So Sharp, Slip Anchor, Reference Point, Saumarez, Never So Bold, Indian Skimmer