Five-time Derby winning jockey Bill Hartack dies of heart disease at age 74
Hall of Fame jockey dies on hunting trip
FREER, Texas — Bill Hartack, a Hall of Fame jockey and five-time Kentucky Derby winner, has died while on a hunting vacation. He was 74.
Hartack died Monday night from natural causes due to heart disease, said Dr. Corinne Stern, the chief medical examiner in Webb County.
Stern said Hartack’s family has been notified, and funeral arrangements were being made.
Hartack and fellow Hall of Fame rider Eddie Arcaro are the only jockeys to win the Kentucky Derby five times. Known for his burning desire to win every single race, Hartack won his first Derby aboard Iron Liege in 1957. He then won with Venetian Way in 1960, Decidedly in 1962, Northern Dancer in 1964 and Majestic Prince in 1969.
Hartack won the Preakness aboard Fabius in 1956, Northern Dancer in 1964 and Majestic Prince in 1969. He won the Belmont Stakes once, with Celtic Ash in 1960.
“He was my idol,” said trainer Mike Stidham, whose father, George, was Hartack’s agent. “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.”
Hartack rode until 1974 and had 4,272 wins from 21,535 mounts, winning nearly 20 percent of his races. He later rode in Hong Kong from 1978-80.
He remained in racing as a steward, working the past few years in that role at Louisiana Downs in Bossier City, La.
Hall of Fame rider Angel Cordero didn’t know Hartack well, but was aware of his accomplishments.
“I rode with him a little bit at the end of his career,” Cordero said Tuesday. “When I first came to this country and met him, it was like meeting a superstar — he was a jockey everyone had heard about.
“He was very smart. And he was amazing with the whip — he could hit a horse left-handed coming around the turn, and the horse would never go out.”
Hartack won his first race in 1952 at West Virginia’s Waterford Park, and he was elected to thoroughbred racing’s Hall of Fame in 1959, at the age of 27.