Five time Kentucky Derby winner and Hall of Fame jockey Bill Hartack passed away November 27, 2007, at the age of 74. He was found dead due to natural causes from heart disease while on a hunting trip in Texas.
Five Time Kentucky Derby Winning Jockey:
He is one of only two jockeys (the other being Eddie Arcaro) to have won the Kentucky Derby five times. He also won the Preakness three times and the Belmont once. Two of his Derby wins are memorable for very different reasons. In 1964 he was aboard Northern Dancer, the Canadian-bred colt who went on to become one of the world's most prolific sires, but he was also aboard 1957 winner Iron Liege, who likely would not have won had Bill Shoemaker not misjudged he finish line and stood up in the irons at the 1/16 pole aboard Gallant Man.
A Champion Rider:
Hartack's North American racing career ran from 1953 to 1974, where he won 4,272 races with a 19.8% winning percentage. His first win was at Waterford Park, West Virginia (now known as Mountaineer Race Track) at the age of 19. He was the nation's leading money-earner in 1956 and repeated that feat in 1957, as the first rider to pass $3 million in earnings. He finished his career in Hong Kong and when he retired from riding he became a steward at Louisiana Downs. In 1959, when inducted into racing's Hall of Fame, he was just 26 years old, the youngest person ever elected.
Some of Hartack's top mounts inclued Northern Dancer, Kelso, Round Table, Tim Tam, Majestic Price, and Carry Back. His Kentucky Derby wins came in 1957 with Iron Liege, 1960 with Venetian Way, 1962 with Decidedly, 1964 with Northern Dancer, and 1969 with Majestic Prince.
Trainer Mike Stidham, whose father George was Hartack's agent and who owned the hunting camp he visited each year, said, "He was my idol. I was at the '69 Derby when he won with Majestic Prince. He was a great person to grow up around. He was a kid at heart."
Trainer D. Wayne Lukas said, "He had a strong, competitive spirit, and he took no prisoners. I admire any of those guys who can accomplish what he did."