In 1977, at the age of 17, American jockey Steve Cauthen was already at the top of his professional in his native country. However, as he matured physically and gained weight, he accepted an invitation from influential owner Robert Sangster to move to Britain, where he could ride at heavier weights. As the newly-appointed stable jockey to Barry Hills, Cauthen won on his first ride in Britain, Marquee Universal, at Salisbury on April 7, 1979 and, a month later, partnered Tap On Wood to victory over the red-hot, and hitherto unbeaten, favourite Kris in the 2,000 Guineas.
Cauthen – who hails from Walton, Kentucky and was hence dubbed the ‘Kentucky Kid’ on this side of the Atlantic – first became Champion Jockey in 1984, while still with Barry Hills. However, by mid-summer, he had already agreed to join Henry Cecil at the start of 1985 season. His seasonal total, of 130 winners, may have been the lowest total since Lester Piggott won his fifth jockeys’ title in 1967, but he lacked nothing in support from Hills.
The first year of the Cecil-Cauthen partnership, 1985, was an annus mirabilis for trainer and jockey. Oh So Sharp, ridden by Cauthen, came out best in a three-way photograph with Al Bahatri, ridden by, and Bella Colora, ridden by, to land an epic renewal of the 1,000 Guineas and later won the Oaks and the St. Leger to complete the Fillies’ Triple Crown. Cauthen also led from start to finish on Slip Anchor in the Derby, eventually beating the runner-up, Law Society, by 7 lengths, to become the first American jockey to win the Epsom Classic since Danny Maher in 1906. By the end of the season, Cauthen had racked up 195 winners, 33 more than his nearest pursuer, Pat Eddery, and was Champion Jockey once again.
After finishing runner-up to Eddery in 1986, Cauthen regained the jockeys’ title in 1987 with 197 winners, including Reference Point, who won the Derby, the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes and the St. Leger in a memorable season. Nevertheless, the race for the jockeys’ title went down to the wire, with Cauthen eventually winning 197-195 from his old rival Pat Eddery on the final day of the season. A key moment came when, following the Great Storm in October, 1987, Newmarket was abandoned, but Cauthen instead headed north to Catterick, where he rode two, ultimately decisive, winners.