Willy Shoemaker’s Toughest Contest
Willy Shoemaker is one of the most famous jockeys of all time. He rode his first race on March 19, 1949 and celebrated his retirement at the Santa Anita racetrack on February 3, 1990. He is reported to have ridden 72,000 winning horses in his first 30 years of racing and his mounts won more money than those of any other jockey in racing history. He was small from the beginning, a premature baby who weighed in at 2 1/4 pounds. As an adult, he weighed about 100 pounds, but he liked tall women! His data comes from his birth certificate: born on August 19, 1931 at 1:30 A.M. MST in Fabens, TX, 31 N 30, 106 W 9.5.
I have received some personal information about Willy’s early life from one of our Mutable Dilemma subscribers, Reverend Bettina, who works as a minister and healer and has been developing her psychic ability through her work. Willy was in Bettina’s 10th grade class in Inglewood high school when Bettina was a California public school teacher. She remembers him as very tiny but very intense and strong-willed. Other teachers had trouble getting Willy to write, but he liked Bettina and in her class he wrote of his desire to become a jockey. Bettina encouraged him, expressing her faith that he could attain his goals. When she read of his retirement, Bettina said that she felt uneasy about him and she tried to reach him, calling repeatedly, but she was blocked by his manager and other employees.
Bettina’s premonition was born out when Willy crashed his car on April 8, 1991. His injuries left him paralyzed from the head down, theoretically for life. But Willy is still a fighter, and he is currently in the Craig hospital in Englewood, CO, putting his intensity and strong will into rehabilitation efforts. The accident occurred near his home in San Dimas, CA, on the Foothill freeway at approximately 34 N 6, 117 W 48. He was driving home from a bar, somewhat drunk. He has had a long-term struggle with alcohol abuse.
Willy’s horoscope shows his fighting spirit with two cardinal crosses in mostly cardinal houses. The tenth house Aries can say “my will is law,” or just “I have to be on top.” Uranus in Aries in the tenth house often marks an entrepreneur whose career is non-traditional, varied, active, and competitive. Uranus retrograded to form an exact square to the seventh house Saturn in Capricorn, another indication of an intensely competitive life as personal will (Aries) met the limits of personal will Saturn and Capricorn) in the context of the will and power of other people (seventh house). Pluto in the first house offered the same message, as the first house always asserts one’s personal will and power while Pluto reminds us of the rights and power of others. Ceres completed one grand cross, its sign of Libra again repeating the issue of other people with whom we either cooperate or compete, and the fifth house demanding a role as king or at least as actor in center stage. The second cardinal cross includes the lunar nodes, with the south node, Mars and Pallas in Libra, the Ascendant in Cancer, and Vesta in Capricorn. The meaning is essentially identical to the other cross. Mars in Libra has to integrate personal rights and power with the rights and power of others. The south node indicates a lesson in that area or in the area of dependency-nurturing, the fourth house with the meaning of Cancer. Like Saturn, Vesta in the seventh house suggests work involving other people, whether it is cooperative or competitive. There is a danger of work being so important that relationships are neglected (whether we do it or it is done by the mate we chose). Alternately, the critical attitude which is appropriate in one’s work may make trouble in personal relationships. The Cancer Ascendant square the fourth house factors suggests problems involving dependency versus equality. Willy has enough fire and earth to be uncomfortable being dependent and helpless, but enough water with the rising Pluto in Cancer, the Moon in Scorpio and the strong fourth house, to have some dependency needs. Sometimes, the only way the dependency needs can be met is through an accident or illness, but it is a painful way to satisfy repressed desires.
Willy also has a strong fixed component in his chart, testifying to his strong will. The Sun, Venus and Jupiter are in Leo with Venus a ruler of Taurus and Jupiter in the Taurus house. The rising Pluto is a fixed planet, and the Moon is in Pluto’s sign of Scorpio and in the fixed natural house of Leo. Chiron and the Antivertex are in Taurus. In addition to learning to share power with others, one of the common fixed lessons involves learning moderation in appetite indulgence. Willy had a long-term problem with alcohol indulgence. Neptune’s octile-trioctile aspects to the cardinal cross that was described initially offers a clue to the tendency to want more than his own power (the Mars principle) or the world’s rules (the Saturn principle) could produce. There are many ways to temporarily escape the frustrations of unattainable dreams. P Neptune’s octile to Pluto was particularly strong as it remained in effect (within a one-degree orb) from Willy’s childhood, but Neptune’s position in his California home and accident locale offered the sharpest statement, calling for attention to unconscious dreams and the need to stay grounded. Natal Neptune was exactly on Willy’s local IC.
As usual, Willy’s asteroids were stunning. Dionysius and Bacchus were the Greek and Roman names of the god associated with drunken revelry. At the time of his accident, Willy’s P Dionysius had been conjunct natal and then P Neptune for some years while P Bacchus was square Neptune along with P Panacea, the daughter of Aesculapius and a healer in her own right. The combination connects healing and drinking and frustrated dreams, with Neptune-Dionysius in Virgo in the Gemini house and Bacchus-Panacea in Sagittarius in the Virgo house. As usual, the principles which are in conflict are present on both sides of the conflict aspect; Neptune in a sign and house of the world around us including material reality and Sagittarius in a house of material reality and its limits. Astrology keeps giving us repeated messages.
Another repeated message involved the two cupbearers for the gods of Olympus, Hebe and Ganymed, with the local angles for the area of Willy’s home and accident. Calculating his chart for San Dimas puts his local MC square natal Hebe and his local Ascendant square Ganymed! He also had natal Bacchus conjunct Soma, the beverage of the gods in Hindu epics, and Beer quincunx Ganymed and square California, the location of the accident. The state of California was the site of both spectacular success and Willy’s current challenge, and the asteroid named for the state had several conflict aspects symbolizing the potential of lessons in this area. In addition to its square to Beer, California was square Icarus (who over-reached and crashed), and quincunx Pluto. P Chiron held a long square to natal California and P California which was retrograde at birth had returned to conjunct its natal position and form an octile-trioctile to the lunar nodes.
But perhaps the most dramatic asteroids were the ones with Willy’s names. We have asteroids named Shoemaker, Williams, and Arthur. The latter was Willy’s original name according to Bettina. At birth, Shoemaker was in five degrees of Cancer, just over two degrees from Willy’s Ascendant in his first house. It was also conjunct Vinifera, the vine producing grapes used for wine. As usual, I only mention aspects which are exact within one degree unless I note otherwise. Williams was also in Willy’s first house just over one and a half degrees from Retsina, the Greek wine with a high resin content. Williams was also square Arthur which was in 13 degrees of Libra in the fourth house. By the time of the accident, P Williams had caught up to P Retsina so they were traveling together, and P Retsina had reached Jupiter, repeating the potential for sensual indulgence when goals are not achieved. They were also octile natal Hebe and P Beer. P Shoemaker had moved to 13 Leo were it was trioctile Atlantis in Pisces (more frustration of dreams), octile the local Antivertex and trioctile the P local East Point, a clear picture of Shoemaker in a state of conflict with himself. And to repeat the message emphatically, P Ascendant was octile natal Shoemaker and P Mars was trioctile natal Shoemaker! These are one-degree orbs!
The number of relevant aspects is astonishing. P Beer was on natal Hebe. P Hebe was on natal Phaethon (another over-reach and crash like Icarus), natal Juno (a female Pluto), and P local Antivertex. P Phaethon was on the natal Ascendant and P Icarus opposed the natal East Point. P Vinifera was on P Asmodeus (the demon of lust), opposite P Moon and square Uranus. Many more aspects could be mentioned, but the point has been made.
Calculating the horoscope for Englewood, CO, where Willy is working toward rehabilitation, puts his MC at 18 Pisces and his Ascendant at 9 Cancer. Though his birthplace is almost straight south of CO, natal Mercury in Virgo is even more closely conjunct his local IC, and natal Moon trines the Ascendant within two degrees, so there is a potential for improvement in his health. The fact that the accident occurred with P Ascendant conjunct Venus connects the accident to sensual indulgence but it also may be a good augury for some degree of recovery. Venus is our pleasure principle. Happy people don’t get sick or have accidents, and if people can become happier, they are also likely to become healthier. Among the traditional keys to Willy’s basic unhappiness which permitted the accident, he had P Moon and P Vesta quincunx Venus and P Ascendant. I think that, like many people whose main source of self-esteem was in his work, he could not handle retirement and became depressed. P Moon had just finished a conjunction with Saturn when he had the accident. I suspect that he had been pretty depressed. Individuals whose self-esteem depends on physical prowess sometimes find it hard to handle the later years of life when physical powers do decline. Mental individuals can usually maintain their satisfying activities. It may take some years for Willy to overcome the worst of the paralysis, but his P Mars trine Pluto shows he can mobilize his intense will and P Venus is trine his California MC and sextile Neptune. We can send him positive prayers as he is forced to learn to accept dependency. His P true lunar nodes have remained in a T-square to natal Shoemaker all his life, epitomizing the struggle between independence (first house), power (tenth house) and dependency of nurturing (fourth house and the nodes as equivalent to two more Moons in the chart). Life is a balancing act, as we learn to make space for our conflicting desires; to do what we please, to be taken care of, etc. We are really all working on the same dilemmas. Each chart just pinpoints the specific emphases and points to the turning points when we have to face the issues and learn to integrate the desires.