One day in 1987 at Keeneland, Kaoru Tsuchiya was wondering why one of her peers had not arrived in the female jockey quarters. A short time later she realized why — Sandy Hawley was a man.
The two relish telling the story of their initial introduction, especially since all these decades later they are now husband and wife. They were married on March 10 in Lexington, Ky., surrounded by friends including Hall of Famers Pat Day (who officiated), Steve Cauthen and Chris McCarron.
Long after their race riding days concluded, the two are like any other retirees who share their daily lives with ordinary activities such as reading, gardening, dining out, entertaining at home, going to movies and simply watching history and nature shows on television. They continue to enjoy the residual effect of the celebrity status of their prime and they spend time giving back in many ways.
Sandy's career can best be summed up in a single sentence — he is a racing Hall of Fame member in both the U.S. and his native Canada. Tsuchiya was well known on the Kentucky-Ohio circuit in part because she was the first Japan-born female jockey to ride in the United States. Statistically, while competing from 1986 to 1992, she won 263 races, a number that surprised her when reminded of it recently. Hawley's 6,450 victories (1968 to 1998) put him 13th on the all-time North American leader list.
While relishing the memories of his time in the saddle, Sandy is never far from racetrack life, especially in his job as Woodbine Racetrack ambassador in Toronto.
“I visit with a lot of lunch and dinner groups at Woodbine, especially for fundraisers,” he said. “I greet them when they arrive and sometimes give a welcoming talk to the whole group. Then I mix and mingle.”
The Hawleys divide their time between Toronto and Lexington, where Kaoru operates her Diamond Masters business of buying and selling jewelry, gems and coins. They are active in Thoroughbred industry charity events, especially those directly connected to jockeys. During Kentucky Derby week in Louisville, their fundraising social calendar included Jocktails that raised money for the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund. At Keeneland's spring meeting, they were front and center for the same cause.
Sandy Hawley in an image dated Feb. 15, 1977 at Santa Anita
Mentors led the way
Sandy Hawley never set out to be a jockey but his small stature, athleticism, an uncle's suggestion and good fortune steered him in that direction. An accomplished high school wrestler who dabbled in hockey and baseball, Hawley obtained a job at Windfields Farm in his hometown of Oshawa when he was 16. With only an occasional ride on his resume, Hawley recalls he was terrified to be aboard a horse. But trainer Duke Campbell — an eventual Canadian Hall of Fame inductee — recognized Hawley's untapped talent. The teenager honed his skills initially in confined areas and then in the open fields. He furthered his horsemanship with a one-year job as a groom for Campbell. He then became an exercise rider before obtaining his jockey's license. After guiding his first winner in the autumn of 1968, his success never slowed.
Hawley was North America's leading apprentice the next year, overall leader in 1970 and in three subsequent years. Through the decades, his success grew with highlights that included induction into the mainstream Canadian Sports Hall of Fame. In 1976 he earned the Eclipse Award as outstanding jockey and received the George Woolf Memorial Award for jockeys whose “careers and personal character earn esteem for the individual and the sport of Thoroughbred horse racing.”
Hawley was a regular at Woodbine and wintered at the South Florida tracks of the era. He also spent time competing in Maryland and ten years in Southern California in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
When the Hawleys first crossed paths at Keeneland, Kaoru had found her niche as a hard-working fearless rider. She first gained attention when she won her North American debut aboard Marvin and Akiko Gothard's Slender Linoa at Turfway Park (then Latonia) in early 1986. An accomplished jockey in Japan on the minor circuit, she came to the United States at the suggestion of Akiko Gothard, who knew her in their Japanese homeland. The Gothards produced a string of winners from their modest stable with Akiko filling roles as trainer, bloodstock adviser and Kaoru's sponsor.
With their active social life, the ageless pair can still enjoy the camaraderie that makes racetrack life so special.
“It is pretty neat when I walk through the grandstand because I have people who stop me and want to chat,” Sandy said. “I had no idea my career would go so well. I had an amazing agent in Colin Wick. Without him and Duke Campbell, I would not have had the career I had.”