Jump to: navigation, search

Willie Saunders

Willie Saunders
Occupation Jockey
Birthplace Bozeman, Montana, United States
Birth date April 13, 1915
Death date July 30, 1986
Career wins not found
Major racing wins, honours & awards
Major racing wins

Rochambeau Handicap (1934)
Santa Anita Oaks (1935)
South Shore Purse (1935)
Chicago Derby (1936)
Detroit Derby (1936)
Monrovia Handicap (1936)
San Juan Capistrano Handicap (1936)
Aberdeen Stakes (1937)
Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (1937)
New Year Stakes (1937)
Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap (1937)
Ladies Stakes (1939)
Governor Caldwell Handicap (1948)
Louisiana Derby (1948)
St. Patrick Purse (1949)

American Classic Race wins:

Kentucky Derby (1935)
Preakness Stakes (1935)
Belmont Stakes (1935)
Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame (1976)
Significant horses
Faireno, Omaha, Whopper

William "Willie/Smokey" Saunders (April 13, 1915 - July 30, 1986) was a Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame jockey in Thoroughbred horse racing who is one of only ten jockeys to ever win the United States Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing.

Saunders was known as "Willie" but also the news media frequently refers to him as "Smokey/Smoky."

Born in Bozeman, Montana, at age eight his family moved to Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He learned to ride in Alberta and in Montana where he returned for his high school years. Saunders earned his first win at Tanforan Racetrack in northern California on April 14, 1932. Competing at tracks in southern California, Alberta-born U.S. Racing Hall of Fame jockey George Woolf tutored Saunders on riding. [1]

During his career, Willie Saunders rode for prominent owners such as Wheatley Stable, Hal Price Headley and William Woodward. He won the 1934 Rochambeau Handicap at Narragansett Park aboard Woodward's Belair Stud colt Faireno who was trained by "Sunny Jim" Fitzsimmons. It would be Fitzsimmons who chose to put Saunders aboard the colt Omaha, and in 1935 they achieved racing immortality by winning the U.S. Triple Crown with victories in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes. [2] In 1935, Saunders also won the inaugural edition of the Santa Anita Oaks aboard Dunlin Lady.

On June 30, 1936, Willie Saunders married Pauline Waterbury of Detroit. [3] Weight problems interrupted his career as did the outbreak of World War II when he joined the United States Army and served overseas in the Pacific Theater. During his four years in the military, a bout of malaria, contracted while overseas, resulted in considerable weight loss that allowed him to resume his career in racing once the war ended. In 1948 Saunders rode Bovard to victory in the Louisiana Derby then rode the colt to a third-place finish in the Preakess Stakes.

Saunders retired in 1950 and later served as a racing official at tracks in Florida, Illinois and New Jersey.

When his riding career ended in 1950, Willie Saunders worked as a trainer for a time before becoming a placing judge at racetracks in Illinois, New Jersey and Calder Race Course in Florida. Living in Hallandale, Florida, five weeks after being diagnosed with cancer of the brain and lungs, Willie Saunders died in a Naples hospital on July 30, 1986 at age 71.

On its formation in 1976, Willie Saunders was inducted in the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame



Premier Equine Classifieds


Subscribe to our newsletter and keep abreast of the latest news, articles and information delivered directly to your inbox.

Did You Know?

Modern horse breeds developed in response to a need for "form to function", the necessity to develop certain physical characteristics in order to perform a certain type of work... More...

The Gypsy Cob was originally bred to be a wagon horse and pulled wagons or caravans known as Vardos; a type of covered wagon that people lived in... More...

Archaeological evidence indicates that the Arabian horse bloodline dates back 4,500 years. Throughout history, Arabian horses spread around the world by both war and trade.... More...

That the term "Sporthorse" is a term used to describe a type of horse rather than any particular breed... More...