Earlie Fires Retires
Sunday, the 21st of September 2008, was a very sad day for Arlington Park Racecourse as it said good-bye to one of its long standing jockeys. After forty-four years on the racecourse and at the age of sixty-one, Earlie Fires announced his retirement after Arlington Park Racecourse had run its last race for 2008. As the leading rider in the history of Arlington Park, Earlie Fires bowed out of the horse racing industry to take on new challenges, such as fishing and traveling. He leaves behind a magnificent legacy at the track and on North American horse racing.
Born the son of a cotton farmer in rural Riverdale, Earlie Fires grew up in a large family. Riding horses was like second nature to him, growing up in the country. By the young age of thirteen, Fires was galloping racehorses during the summers when he traveled to Chicago to work. He made his decision to throw himself into the horse racing industry by the age of fifteen, and quit school to pursue his dreams. In 1959, Fires saw his brother, Jinks Fires, ride at Raton and he knew from that moment that he wanted to work his way up to being a jockey.
In 1964, at the age of seventeen, Fires got his jockey’s license and on 6 March 1965 he took part in his first race and won at the Oakland Park Racecourse on a wonderful horse by the name of Carnation Kid. He would go on to become the apprentice jockey of the year by winning two hundred and twenty-four racing events within the same year. Since then, he has made a name for himself at top horse racing establishments such as Keeneland Racecourse, Gulfstream Park, Churchill Downs, Calder Race Course and was the leading rider for Arlington Park Racecourse no less than six times.
Earlie Fires retires as the number nine jockey in the standings, with a total of 6 470 victories, of which 2 886 were at Arlington. When added together, his mounts have earned over $86 million. He received the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award in 1991, and in 2001 he was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame. When asked about his most memorable mount, Fires is quick to respond with the name of In Reality who he rode in 1967. He will always be remembered as a good sportsman and someone who truly loves horses and the sport of horse racing. Arlington has announced the hosting of the Earlie Fires Day, which will take place on 1 May 2009. His parting message was this: “I wanted to retire on my terms. I don’t have any regrets. I will miss the Illinois people, especially at Arlington Park. This crowd has always been a good crowd and I love that more than anything in the world. I’m going to travel but I’ll still be around to visit.”