(Paulick Report)

Image result for Jockey Ycaza“Get out of the way boys, here comes Yackasack!” That may not be the exact phrase a young jockey uttered to me early one Saratoga Saturday morning more than a half century ago. But there was real awe in his voice when asked to describe the riding style of Manny Ycaza, a hard-riding Panamanian who died recently at the age of 80.

Ycaza arrived on the American racing scene after a boyhood riding ponies and horses in Panama City and after learning the ropes immediately took center stage in the New York jockey colony. He was a dapper dresser who carried himself with the grace of Fred Astaire and walked with the strut of a Buckingham Palace guard. The grace ended when he jogged onto the race track. Then it was every man for himself. Yackasack took no prisoners.

He was among the first and most successful in a long line of Latin American jockeys that began arriving here right after the Korean War. Fellow Panamanians Laffit Pincay Jr and Braulio Baeza followed along with Jorge Velasquez.

He was a Hall of Famer, who spent more than 600 days in the penalty box instead of in the steam box, having been ruled off often by the stewards for various aggressive riding tactics. “He literally loves the challenge of cleaving a crowd of horses while perched on a postage stamp saddle,” my CBS News colleague Heywood Hale Broun once wrote about Ycaza. “And it is then, when his club becomes a saddle, that the two-dollar bettors give a loving loop to their version of his name, Yackasack.”

But using riding tactics that were once described as “intimidating” means that there are penalties to be paid other than official suspensions. When we interviewed him at Saratoga in 1971, he had just spent a year and a half recovering from a spill in which he broke an ankle, tore up a knee and fractured a shoulder.

“I have the same attitude about the suspensions and the accidents,” he told us, “ I forget about them as soon as they happen. I never look back when it comes to the past. I live in the present and I dream of the future.” Woodie Broun asked why he received his last suspension. “ I guess I try a little too hard. And there is only one way of trying hard, to win it.” That attitude is what endeared him to the New York railbirds and they were a tough crowd to please.