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Born on September 1, 1915, in Kansas, John
Iola Mite Adams won his first race at age 20 without an apprentice
license, as his parents refused to sign the necessary papers. That did not stop
the young horseman, who lied about his age and jumped to the journeyman ranks
without the benefit of a weight allowance.
the rider had traveled across country to Longacres where he rode until the
early 1940s. Adams rode Bartlett to victory in the 1936 Spokane Handicap and
Alviso for the win in the 1936 Speed Handicap. Adams was aboard three Longacres
Mile starters (1936, 1937 and 1942) with his best finish a fourth aboard Blue
Bud in 37. That would be the same year in which he would lead the
nations riders for the first of three years with a record of 260-186-177
from 1,255 mounts and a 21 percent win ratio. He also led the 1942 ranks with
245 victories (22 percent) and in 1943 with 228 wins (21 percent).
Adams was known for his good hands and keen
sense of pace.
In 1939, he was aboard C.S.
Howards *Kayak II when that runner won the Santa Anita Handicap. He rode
his second Big Cap winner seven years later on War Knight. He
also won the 1954 Preakness Stakes aboard Hasty Road, and among the other big
races he won during his 23-year career as a rider were the American Derby,
Widener Handicap, Gulfstream Park Handicap, Kentucky Oaks, Arlington-Washington
Futurity, CCA Oaks (twice), Breeders Futurity, Hopeful Stakes and
Hollywood Gold Cup. He twice finished second in the Kentucky Derby, with Blue
Swords in 1943 and with Hasty Road.
honored with the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award in 1956 and was elected to
the National Racing Hall of Fame in 1965.
Adams retired from riding after 3,270 career wins and purse earnings of
$9,743,109 to become a successful trainer. His first winner was ridden by his
son John R. Adams. Among the top runners he trained were Prize Spot, Relaunch,
New Policy, Niarkos and Jumping Hill, but his most noteworthy training
accomplishment occurred with a runner who had recently been transferred into
his hands after a 1976 championship season in England. The horse was George
Pope, Jr.s J.O. Tobin and the race was the 1977 Swaps Stakes (G1) in
which the great Seattle Slew, fresh off his Triple Crown campaign, would meet
his first defeat. J.O. Tobin led at every call, as a tired Slew trailed home
fourth by 16 lengths.
Adams died on August 19,
1995, just shy of his 80th birthday.
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Sunnyside, Washington, native Gary Baze has
won over 3,200 races, including more in his home state than any rider in
history. He began his career as an apprentice at Longacres in 1973 and promptly
led the Renton tracks standings with 120 wins. He finished 1973 with a
total of 189 victories good enough to place him second among the
nations leading apprentices. Baze won a record six riding titles at
Longacres (including three in a row) and also holds Longacres records for
career wins (1,538) and stakes wins (100). He received the prestigious Lindy
(Skelly) Award in 1989, 1991 and 2000. Baze, 47, has won a record five
Longacres Miles (Trooper Seven, 1980-81; Chum Salmon, 1985; Judge Angelucci,
1987; and Adventuresome Love, 1993). He also has won a record five Washington
Breeders Cup Oaks and seven Washington Championships, which has been
renamed the Washington Cup Classic for its 2003 running. During his stellar
career, Baze rode numerous Washington champions and was the regular rider for
two of the three horses also being inducted in the inaugural Hall of Fame,
Trooper Seven and Captain Condo.
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Joe Baze, who was born in 1933 in Outlook to noted horsemen Bert and Mabel Baze, is the third member of the nationally renowned Baze riding clan to join the Washington Racing Hall of Fame. He joins son Russell, who is also a member of the National Racing Hall of Fame, and nephew Gary among Washington’s elite riders. He is also the grandfather of leading California riders Tyler Baze, who won the 2000 Eclipse Apprentice Jockey Award, and Michael Baze.
Joe began riding in 1949 and had his first winner at
the fall meet in Gresham, Oregon. During his career he won over 1,700 races.
He scored riding titles at Longacres in 1950 and 1954. His 90-win record in 1950, which he duplicated four years later, stood until Enrique DeAlba passed him in 1961 with 103 wins. Baze also won jockey titles at Bay Meadows and Golden Gate Fields.
In between the two Longacres titles, Baze lost a kidney in a serious spill in 1951, in which doctors advised him to give up riding. After having another serious spill at Golden Gate Fields in late 1954, he decided to retire, but 11 years later made a dramatic comeback at age 32. He continued riding until further kidney problems forced his permanent retirement from the saddle in 1973.
Joe rode in six Longacres Miles. In his first Mile, in 1950, he finished second with Frank and Dorothy Brewster’s great filly Whang Bang behind the Eddie Arcaro-ridden Two and Twenty. Twenty-one years later, in what would be his final attempt, Baze scored a 1 1/2-length win aboard
S. J. Agnew’s Pitch Out.
In addition, Baze was aboard three Longacres Derby winners, including Washington champions Whang Bang (1950) and Rock Bath (1971). Baze guided horse of the year Rock Bath to two other Longacres stakes wins that season. Among Baze’s 24 other stakes wins at the Renton oval were back-to-back Space Needle Handicaps in 1973-74 with the popular Red Eye Express. Another historic Longacres victory came aboard the speed demon Grey Papa, with whom he partnered in his world-record six-furlong mark of 1:07 1/5 in 1972.
When Longacres closed in 1992, Joe Baze was 18th leading all-time rider with 464 winners from 3,312 mounts (14 percent). His nephew Gary topped the 60-year list with 1,538 wins. Joe also finished in a three-way tie for tenth place – with Basil Frazier and Jack Leonard – in number of stakes wins with 29.
Joe later became a trainer, as had his brothers Carl, Earl and Kenny. Joe and wife Beverly have five children; Russell, Cory, Jeffrey, Joby and Dale. Besides Russell, who is the all-time winning rider in the world, sons Dale and Jeffrey also became riders.
The best known national figure from the
famed Pacific northwest racing family, Russell Bazes riding career began
in earnest when he was 15 at Walla Walla. He won his first race the following
year at Yakima Meadows in 1974. Later that year he was leading apprentice at
Longacres and Baze would hang his tack at the Renton track for four more years
(1975-79). The numbers Baze has recorded since that time are absolutely
astounding. He has won 400 or more races in 11 of the last 12 years only
failing to reach the 400 win plateau in 1999 when injured for three months
yet still managed 373 winning rides. As a means of comparison, no other
rider in history has won over 400 races for more than two consecutive years.
That streak was considered so fantastic that in the middle of the eight year
run (1996), Baze was presented a Special Eclipse Award. Just as remarkable is
the fact that Baze has won the Isaac Murphy Award, a national honor given
annually to the jockey with the highest win percentage, every year since the
awards inception in 1995. He was also awarded the George Woolf Memorial
Jockey Award by his peers in 2002. Born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Baze
racked up most of these wins in northern California where he has captured 27
consecutive riding titles at Bay Meadows and had a streak of 24 consecutive
riding titles at Golden Gate Fields, until it was broken (again due to injury)
this past spring. He is the fourth leading rider of all time with over 8,600
wins, trailing only Laffit Pincay, Jr., Bill Shoemaker and Pat Day. If he stays
healthy, Baze should surpass Day first, then Shoemaker next year and Pincay in
2006. Baze has ridden three Longacres Mile-G3 winners: Simply Majestic in 1988,
Sky Jack in 2003 and was victorious in the 04 edition last month with
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(1964- , Inducted 2011)
Vicky (Aragon) Baze, whose husband Gary joined the Hall of Fame in 2003, is the fourth rider with the Baze surname to be honored in Washington’s hall of champions.
Born Vicky Ann Meiser on Christmas Day 1964 in Brunswick, Georgia, Vicky spent a well-traveled youth as the only child of George, a US Naval officer, and Winnie Meiser, a Scottish-born photographer. Her first experience with horses came in Sardinia, after which she convinced her parents to let her go to England to learn how to ride.
After graduating high school in Van Nuys, California, Vicky spent the next two years as an exercise rider at the major Southern California tracks before making her riding debut in March 1985 at Yakima Meadows. During this time she was married for two years to exercise rider Pepe Aragon.
Vicky’s first win came on June 6 of that year at Longacres aboard Junior Coffey-trained Sir Jeppi. In September she would guide then two-year-old Kent Green to the first (Tukwila Stakes) of his eight stakes victories. With the win – following a double race inquiry – she became the first female rider to win a stakes at Longacres since Jane Driggers had won with Grey Papa in 1975. Vicky ended the season fourth in the Longacres’ rider standings after winning 73 of 378 races as an apprentice.
Vicky would later credit Coffey, Clint Roberts and Tom Roberts as the trainers who were most responsible for getting her riding career started.
The following year the tenacious jockey earned the first of two riding titles at Renton oval, guiding home 179 winners (from 862 mounts), led by stakes wins with Kent Green, Stitch An a Half, Popcorn Patti and Northern Numas. Joe Steiner was a distant second in the standings with 93 winners. One of her best days came on August 21 when she won six races from nine mounts.
In June 1986, the light-weight rider first came into the national spotlight as the subject of a short article in People Magazine titled “Vicky Aragon’s Career Is Off at a Gallop.”
A few months later, Sports Illustrated ran a February 23, 1987, feature titled “Battling for Her Place,” with a subtitle “Vicky Aragon’s combative nature has earned her suspensions and fines – but also acclaim as the leading woman jockey.”
After finishing fifth in the rider standings in 1987, Vicky added her second Longacres title in 1988 with a 139-115-114 record from 791 mounts. She would finish in the top six during all eight years she rode at the Renton track. On the list of the all-time leading riders at Longacres, Vicky ranks fifth with 754 wins and a 15.3 win percentage.
She was the first female rider to contest the Longacres Mile, finishing sixth aboard Basket Weave in 1987, and would finish with a fourth and three thirds in her four other attempts to win Washington’s only graded stakes.
In 1988 Vicky received the Skelly (now Lindy) Award.
The diminutive rider also earned two riding titles at Yakima Meadows, riding 99 winners in 1992 and 125 winners during the 1993 Emerald Racing Association meet. All in all, she rode 471 winners at the Central Washington Fair Grounds and won over 30 stakes.
Among her 146 wins at Emerald Downs have been seven stakes victories, including rides aboard Washington champions Best Judgement and Ito the Hammer.
Gary and Vicky were married on April 1, 1999, at Lake Wilderness State Park.
In 2001, Vicky retired from race riding due to the effects of many past injuries and became her husband’s jockey’s agent. She also was the horsemen’s liaison officer at Emerald Downs, but returned to riding in 2009.
In 2010, the Bazes went to Assiniboia Downs where Vicky became the first woman rider to win the jockey title (71 wins) at the Canadian track.
On March 1, 2011, Vicky became only the fifth woman rider to win 2,000 races. Her historic victory came aboard Decarchy Park in the ninth race at Turf Paradise.
Through October 17, 2011, Vicky has ridden in 12,829 races and had 2,028 winners with total earnings of $13,752,144. So far in 2011 she has had 44 winners among her 273 mounts, including seven wins during the first three weeks of the current Turf Paradise meeting.
The Bazes are now based in Glendale, Arizona.
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(1964- , Inducted 2014)
The all-time Emerald Downs season record holder by wins and earnings in a single season (157 wins and $1,632,102 in purses in 2007) and the only five-time meet leading rider, Ricky Frazier is the second jockey to make it into the Washington Racing Hall of Fame based mainly on accomplishments at the Auburn track. Fellow movie stunt rider Gallyn Mitchell became the first in 2013. (Both riders worked as stunt riders in the 2003 movie Seabiscuit.) 2007 also marked the year Frazier was among the finalists for Seattle P. I. Sports Star of the Year.
A native of Arkansas, Frazier - who celebrated his 50th birthday on July 23 - produced one of the most dominant runs in state history, winning his five titles in a seven-season span (2004-10). His agent, Boone McCanna, was pivotal in Frazier’s decision to head north to the Washington track.
Frazier won Longacres Miles aboard Flamethrowintexan in 2006 and on Noosa Beach four years later. He also partnered two Gottstein Futurity winners: Positive Prize (2004) and the classy filly Smarty Deb (2007) and rode a trio of Emerald Downs Derby winners: Alexandersrun (2005), Gallon (2008) and Winning Machine (2009). Before the Northwest Stallion Stakes was combined to one race in 2013, Frazier won five consecutive filly divisions (2006-10), a track record for consecutive stakes wins by a rider, and four colt divisions (2004-05, 2007, 2010).
Among those riders plying their trade during Emerald Downs first 19 seasons of racing, Mitchell controls the stakes wins leader board with 77 - and Mitchell has ridden in each of Emerald’s seasons - followed by Frazier's 72 tallies.
Frazier, the son of successful jockey and trainer Roy Frazier, grew up in a racing family based out of Hot Springs, Arkansas - home of Oaklawn Park. He began his riding career in 1980 when his father hoisted him up on his first official mount in May at Churchill Downs, only two months after his 16th birthday. He won his first race later that same year at Louisiana Downs.
In addition to his Emerald meet-end titles, Frazier holds riding titles at Sam Houston Race Park, Retama Park, Louisiana Downs, Delaware Park and Fresno.
In his 32 seasons of riding, he rode in 25,257 races with a 3,469-3,235-3,071 record, which translates into an overall 13.73 win percentage and a 32.27 top three percent. Nationally, since 2000, Frazier's highest ranking by wins came in 2009, when he was 36th with 195 wins. He also hit the 190 mark in 1994. His highest earnings year came in 1999, when in 1,055 rides, his mounts accumulated $3,172,301.
The well-spoken Frazier - who learned to be media-friendly at an early age - also ranks second (12 in 2007), one behind Mitchell's 13 stakes winners, on the single-season stakes win list at Emerald.
On October 17, 2010, while riding at the Northern California fair meet at Fresno, Frazier - who had just sown up his fourth consecutive meet title – suffered a severe head injury in the next to the last race of the meet when his mount swung his head back, hitting the rider and throwing him to the ground. After two years spent trying to get medical clearance to ride, Frazier decided to retire from riding. On July 3, 2013, Emerald Downs held a joint retirement party for Frazier and one of his best mounts - two-time Washington horse of the year Noosa Beach.
The 2010 injury wasn't the first major slowdown in Frazier’s riding career. In January 2005 he broke his neck in five places during a spill at the Fair Grounds and, like most of his riding co-workers, had broken at least one rib, hip and ankle, gone through various knee operations and lost a few teeth.
In 2011, Frazier attended the University of Louisville's Equine Industry Program College of Business Racing Officials Accreditation and Program for Stewards, Judges and Officials in Kentucky in order to prepare for the time when his riding days were over.
(1939-2012, Inducted 2012)
A native of Swift Current, Saskatchewan, Paul Frey had a riding career which spanned from 1953 to 1972. His first winner came in maiden race aboard $9.05-to-one Star-C on August 16, 1954, at Edmonton in Alberta.
Frey was twice the leading rider at Longacres (1964, 103 wins, and 1966, 115 wins), and his 810 victories, which were highlighted by 41 stakes victories, place him fourth among all Longacres riders in that category. In addition, among the “outstanding riding feats at Longacres from 1933 through 1970,” Frey’s name appears six times: twice for winning six races from nine mounts; twice for winning with five of seven mounts; once for having five wins with eight mounts; and once for having five wins from nine mounts. It must be noted that of the 15 other riders mentioned, only Johnny Adams’ name was listed more than once.
Frey also won a pair of riding titles at Playfair in 1956 (28 wins) and 1960 (55 wins) and led the rider standings at Turf Paradise and Arizona Downs.
At the time of his retirement, Frey ranked 25th on the all-time North American lifetime win list for jockeys with a record of 2,478-2,239-2,149 from 16,573 mounts who earned a total of $4,521,547. On six separate occasions Frey was listed among the top 30 riders in North America by wins: 1956, 139 wins, co-ranked 26th with Johnny Adams and Eric Guerin; 1960, ranked 14th with 190 wins; 1961, ranked eighth with 227 wins; 1965, ranked 16th with 188 wins; 1966, ranked fifth with a career-record 257 wins; and 1967, ranked 20th win 198 wins.
On July 29, 1967, he became the 33rd North American rider to reach 2,000 wins. Nationally, he was aboard On My Honor for his tally in the California Derby and was again astride the colt when he finished fourth in the 1963 Kentucky Derby. He also took the 1966 Bay Meadows Handicap with Lou Diamond, the 1967 William P. Kyne Handicap with Most Host and the 1970 California Jockey Club Handicap with Poona Downs.
Among his best Washington mounts were Grey Papa, Sparrow Castle, Tenino Ville, Dr. John H., Gold Afloat and Lak Nak, on whom he scored back-to-back wins in the Speed Handicap in 1965-66. He won both the Gottstein Futurity (Te Amo Weep in 1959 and Dr. John H. in 1961) and Longacres Derby (Sparrow Castle in 1960 and Ahead Tiger in 1967) twice. Frey and Ahead Tiger also took the British Columbia Derby. Among his other stakes wins at the Renton oval were: William E. Boeing Stakes (1959, 1971); Seafair Queen Stakes (1966); Tacoma Handicap (1960-61, 1969); Renton Handicap (1956, 1964-65, 1967, 1971); Space Needle Handicap (1965, 1968-69); Independence Day Handicap (1964); Spokane Handicap (1960, 1967, 1970); Mercer Girls Stakes (1966, 1968); Drumheller Memorial (1959); Governor’s Handicap (1956); Washington Stallion Stakes (both divisions in 1964, 1970); Hilltop Handicap (1961, 1964); Broderick Memorial (1961, 1964); British Columbia Handicap (1966-68); and Memorial Day Handicap (1966, 1971).
His wins at Playfair included tallies in the Inland Empire Marathon (1956), Spokane Derby (1959), Washington State Breeders Handicap (1959) and Playfair Mile (1966).
After his retirement from riding, Frey worked in the jockeys’ room at the Northern California tracks and was Russell Baze’s valet for several years, a position now held by his son Jay, a former trainer and current exercise rider.
Frey passed away from pneumonia on January 14, 2012, in Palo Alto, California, just two days before his grandson Kyle Frey was named 2011 Eclipse Award-winning apprentice rider. The then 19-year-old rider paid tribute to his grandfather in his acceptance speech.
(1918-1998, Inducted 2005)
A Sunnyside, Washington, native, Basil
James recorded his first victory at Playfair Race Course in 1935. The following
year, he led the nation in wins as a 16-year-old apprentice rider with 245
trips to the winners circle. Three years later, he led the nation in
total earnings by a jockey with $353,333. He finished the 1939 season with 191
wins from 904 mounts, including a score aboard Heather Broom in the prestigious
Blue Grass Stakes, held at a brand new racetrack named Keeneland. Later that
same year the pair would finish third in the Kentucky Derby. Early in his
career, James received tutelage from national Hall of Fame jockey and then
trainer Earl Sande. His two greatest mounts were undoubtedly the amazing Alsab
and the grand gelding Stymie. Alsab was one of the greatest, most durable
runners in American racing history, but as noted by many racing historians, one
of the most mismanaged Thoroughbreds as well by his egocentric owner for which
he was named, Al Sabbath. Alsab won the 1942 Preakness Stakes and was second in
the Kentucky Derby that year under James. Alsab was named champion juvenile in
1941 and champion three-year-old colt of 1942. Stymie, one of the most
inspiring rags to riches stories of the American turf was a former bottom level
claimer that James rode to victory in the 1946 Whitney Handicap at famed
Saratoga race course. James, who was voted into the Washington State Sports
Hall of Fame in 1967, served as film analyst at Longacres for many seasons.
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(1900-1966, Inducted 2006)
Born November 18, 1900, in Milan, a rural
community located northeast of Spokane along the Burlington Northern Railroad,
Albert Johnson began his career in racing as a stablehand at Playfair. Later,
during his 12 recorded years of riding, he rode 503 winners from 3,199 mounts.
An additional 473 of his mounts ran second and another 481 finished third,
giving the rider $1,304,740 in amount won during a career which began in 1917
and ended in 1929.
The top money-winning jockey in
1922 when his mounts won 43 of 297 races and earned $345,054, Johnson was the
only the fifth rider in history to win two Kentucky Derbies, which he
accomplished in 1922 aboard Morvich his first Derby mount and in
1926, while riding Bubbling Over. Johnson rode in seven consecutive Derbies
from 1922 through 1928. In 1924, he finished second in the Kentucky classic,
while aboard Chihowee, to Black Gold.
one of only seven riders to win back-to-back Belmont Stakes. Both of his wins
came aboard sons of Man o War owned by Maxwell Riddle: American Flag in
1925 and Crusader in 1926.
While he never won a
Preakness Stakes, Baltimore was the site of his first Triple Crown race, when
in 1919 he finished ninth aboard Drummond to the horse who would be
racings first Triple Crown winner, Sir Barton. His best placings in
racings middle jewel would be fourth place finishes aboard Dress Parade
(1926) and The Nut (1929).
He was astride
Exterminator when that great gelding won the 1922 Brooklyn Handicap. Johnson
would later call Old Bones the best horse I ever rode.
He also won the Champagne Stakes (Bubbling Over), Black-Eyed Susan Stakes
twice, Belmont Futurity, three Pimlico Futurities, Coaching Club American Oaks,
Dwyer Stakes, Matron Stakes, Fashion Stakes, Futurity (Belmont) and many other
Upon his retirement from riding, after a
stint riding steeplechasers in France, he became a trainer for his boyhood
friend, Bing Crosbys Binglin Stables. Johnson later would serve as a
clocker at most of Californias major tracks.
Inducted into the Inland Empire Hall of Fame in
1965, Johnson was installed in the National Racing Hall of Fame in 1971.
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(1935-1991, Inducted 2009)
Lennie Roy Knowles was born in Chelan in 1935, the youngest of 11 children. His father owned and trained horses and the future Hall of Famer began riding as a teenager in the bush leagues of Washington and Montana. He rode his first official
winner in the spring of 1957 at the Salem Fairgrounds in Oregon.
After finishing second in the rider standings at Playfair in 1963, Knowles won his first riding championship in 1964 at the Spokane track when he booted home a record 62 winners during the 41-day meet. He would set another Playfair record in 1966, after making 77 trips to the winner’s circle. He was also a leading rider at Portland Meadows, where he won the 1975 Portland Meadows Mile aboard Star of Kuwait.
Knowles rode the first of his 17 seasons at Longacres in 1958 and initially appeared among the leaders in 1963 when he finished third with 58 wins. He stepped that record up the following year to finish second to Paul Frey in the jockey standings with 95 wins. In 1965, Knowles, who would win five races in six mounts on June 11, earned the first of his four Longacres titles with 92 wins, 84 seconds and 73 thirds among his 487 mounts, giving him an 18.9 percent win rate and a 51.1 percent win-place-show tally. After again finishing second to Frey in 1966, Knowles won back-to-back riding titles at the Renton track in 1967 (105 wins) and 1968 (94 wins). Knowles also led all Longacres riders in 1972 with 121 wins, tying the record Larry Pierce had set the previous year. Knowles would also finish second in wins four more times, including being runner-up behind fellow Washington Hall of Fame riders Pierce (1971) and Gary Baze (1973 and 1974).
Washington champions Smogy Dew, Summereigh, Prince Joda, Pataha Prince, Gold Afloat, Quina Reigh, Koko’s Pal, Dark Satin, Mondo Lea, Crafty Native and Flamme were among his regular rides. From 1970 through 1972 Knowles “owned” the Washington Futurity after guiding Royal Ruler, Prince Joda and Koko’s Pal to consecutive victories in the state’s top juvenile race. Knowles rode in ten Longacres Miles, but the best he could do was a second with Doctor Spark in 1964. Among his many memorable rides were his victories in the 1964 and 1973 Longacres Derbies. In the first, he guided filly great Smogy Dew to an upset victory over Canadian champion George Royal. It remains the last time a filly has won the Derby. His 1973 victory came courtesy of Table Run’s dominating nine-length win.
All in all, Knowles had 55 stakes wins at Longacres, to rank third in that category and was only one of three riders to win 1,000 or more races at the track. Among all riders plying their trade at Longacres through the years, Knowles ranks second with 1,263 wins (15.8 percent) to Gary Baze’s 1,538. Pierce sits in third place with 1,039 victories.
Knowles was ranked among the top 20 riders in the nation by wins on three occasions: 1964 (8th with 225 wins), 1966 (19th with 205 wins) and 1967 (18th with 207 wins).
Knowles first retired from riding in 1978 and became the manager of the Longacres jockeys’ quarters. He later made a brief comeback in 1982, winning his last stakes race at Longacres that year aboard Flamme in the Luella G. Handicap.
Knowles, only 56, died of cancer in October of 1991. The one and only running of the Lennie Knowles Memorial, a $60,000 race for two-year-olds, was staged during Longacres’ final season in 1992 and was won by another Washington champion, Staff Rider.
Born on August 15, 1962, in Denver, Colorado, Gallyn Mitchell was raised in Southern California where his parents operated a rodeo company and provided stock for the movie industry. Mitchell’s first mounts, which included rodeo bulls, were far from the pampered Thoroughbreds he would later partner so successfully.
At 15, the young riding hopeful made a trip across country with a family friend, attending races and seeping in the spell of the Thoroughbred. A few months after his return to California he began riding at Los Alamitos and Santa Anita Park.
After being winless in his first seven mounts in 1980, Mitchell recorded his first win on January 29, 1981, aboard 27-to-one longshot My Dutchess in a maiden special weight at Santa Anita. Trainer Frank Lucarelli noticed “that horses run for him” and told the young reinsman of possible opportunities up north. Later that year Mitchell moved his tack to the Pacific Northwest. He would ride 50 winners that year.
Mitchell met his future wife, Denise Bullock, at Longacres, where she was an exercise rider. Both her parents, Jack and Glenda Bullock, were trainers and her brother Steve Bullock would become a prominent conditioner at Emerald Downs. Denise has also been his agent since 1995.
Mitchell’s lone stake winner at Longacres would be a memorable one, as he piloted Iron Billy to three stakes victories, including a win over future Eclipse Award winner Chinook Pass in the 1982 Puget Sound Handicap.
In 1990, Mitchell led all Playfair riders with 101 winners. He also rode 75 seconds and 49 thirds that season from his 404 mounts to give him an outstanding 25 percent wins and a 58.2 percent top three finishes.
During the 1995 Emerald Racing Association meet held at Yakima Meadows, Mitchell also topped the jockey colony with 126 wins.
Since Emerald Downs opened in 1996, Mitchell has ridden in each of the 18 seasons at the Auburn track and finished in the top five (including at the top in 1999 and 2000) 16 times. His 2012 season was abbreviated after his hand was broken in a starting gate accident in August, but not before he had put two stakes wins on 2012 Emerald horse of the meet Makors Finale. To add further turmoil to his year, in late December, after guiding Washington champions Absolutely Cool and E Z Kitty to stakes wins, he fractured an ankle and spine in a spill at Turf Paradise.
Through the end of 2012, Mitchell ranked first at Emerald in earnings ($13,847,580), wins (1,347) and stakes wins (76). He also leads in single season stakes wins with 13 in 2000 and has had four five-win days.
Through June 22 of this year, Mitchell has ridden 17,003 mounts with 2,628 wins, 2,453 seconds and 2,375 thirds, with total earnings of $20,461,846.
Mitchell has been aboard two Longacres Mile winners, Edneator in 2000 and Assessment in 2009. Among the Washington champions he has guided to stakes victories are Noosa Beach, Couldabenthewhisky and Enumclaw Girl.
Twice a finalist for the George Woolf Award (2009 and 2010), Mitchell was honored with Emerald’s Lindy Award in 2010.
Mitchell also has a sideline in film work. He made his first movie appearance in the popular 1970 American revisionist Western Little Big Man, which starred Dustin Hoffman, and would serve as a stunt man in several movies as an adult. Among them were the 1993 action crime drama Street Knight, the 2001 sci-fi remake of Planet of the Apes and more appropriately as a stunt rider in the 2003 racing drama Seabiscuit. He also appeared in the HBO series Luck.
The Mitchells, who reside in Enumclaw, have three children, Cody, Samantha and Jaclyn, and one granddaughter, Taylor Jade.
The couple strongly believes in helping those less fortunate and each year have done at least one charity event. So, it was with a sense of gratitude that the racing community got together this spring to mount a fundraiser after Mitchell suffered a heart attack in April.
(1918-1995, Inducted 2003)
Born in Cape Cod, Massahusetts, Ralph Neves
was inducted in the National Racing Hall of Fame in 1960. He rode for 30 years
(1934-64) and won 3,772 races, ranking him sixth on the all-time wins list at
the time of his retirement. Neves began riding at age 13 under the supervision
of trainer J.J. Millerick. He started his career at Longacres where he won
riding titles in 1935 and 1938. Nicknamed The Portuguese Pepperpot,
Neves also rode for the famed Calumet Farm but competed mostly at west coast
tracks where he was a leading rider at Santa Anita, Golden Gate Fields, Del
Mar, etc. He recorded three wins each in the Santa Anita Derby, Hollywood Gold
Cup, Hollywood Derby, Sunset Handicap and Santa Margarita Handicap. Neves
biggest victories came in 1957 on Corn Husker in the Santa Anita Handicap and
aboard future horse of the year Round Table in the Blue Grass Stakes. In 1954
he received the prestigous George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, named for the
ill-fated rider with whom Neves had become good friends.
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Larry Pierce was born in Clebit, Oklahoma,
in 1945. Following his older brother, the successful California rider Don
Pierce (who won the 1958 Longacres Mile aboard Collaborator), Larrys
first experience with Thoroughbreds came through the Washington-based Taylor
brothers, for whom he would later ride many winners.
Pierce started his riding career in 1963 at
Exhibition Park (now Hastings Park) in Vancouver, British Columbia, but soon
made the move south to Longacres. Pierce would lead the rider rankings at
Longacres during three seasons: 1970 (97 wins), 1971 (121) and 1976 (93). When
Longacres closed in 1992, Pierce was the third all-time leading rider at the
Renton oval, winning 1,039 races from 7,094 mounts, behind only fellow
Washington Hall of Fame rider Gary Baze (1,263) and Lennie Knowles (1,263). He
also was second on the tracks all-time stakes list after booting home the
winners of 63 added-money events.
On May 20, 1972,
Pierce claimed his own little bit of racing history by winning aboard seven of
his eight mounts. That record has never been equaled in Washington and remains
one of the top one-day riding feats in North America.
He was aboard Silver Mallet in the 1973 Longacres
Mile when the gray gelding just got up for the win and provided fellow Hall of
Fame trainer Jim Penney the first of his record-setting five Mile winners.
Pierces most famous mount was probably
Turbulator (another Hall of Fame member), for whom he was a regular rider,
including the infamous day when Pierces irons slipped at the starting
gate in the 1970 Mile, and though riding with no stirrups, the two Hall of
Famers still managed to finish fifth, in a riding performance which was hailed
as unparalleled by the late Seattle Times handicapper Bob
The rider won the Gottstein Futurity
aboard Pataha Prince in 1967 (who later finished a neck behind Silver Mallet in
the 73 Mile), and also won back-to-back Belle Roberts Handicaps aboard
Turn to Fire in 1971-72.
Among his other top mounts
were world-record breaker Sandy Fleet, Just Like Uptown, Mades Bold Son,
Tavy Blue, Times Rush and Heather Ala Roni.
retired from riding the first time after the 1976 season, but later returned to
the saddle for a successful run in early 1981 before his second retirement in
1984. Pierce then joined the trainer ranks until 2002.
After selling cars for a few years, the former
reinsman returned to the track for the 2008 racing season at Emerald Downs as a
jockeys agent for Alvaro Rojas and Travis Cunningham.
Considered by many to be the
greatest rider ever to come out of the Pacific northwest, Caldwell, Idaho,
native Gary Stevens has won the Kentucky Derby-G1 three times, the Preakness
Stakes-G1 twice and the Belmont Stakes-G1 three times, as well as eight
Breeders Cup races. He was elected to the the National Racing Hall of
Fame in 1997. Closing in on 5,000 career wins, Stevens has won six riding
titles at Hollywood Park, five titles at Santa Anita and led the standings
twice at Del Mar, Longacres and Portland Meadows. Stevens, 40, also became the
first rider in Longacres history to win over 200 races in a season. He captured
the tracks signature Longacres Mile-G3 in 1991 aboard Louis Cyphre (Fr)
and won the final race in the Renton ovals storied history on September
21, 1992. Other career achievements include leading the nation in earnings
(1990), becoming the youngest rider in history to surpass $100 million in
career earnings (1993), winning 16 grade one races in 1995 and being the 1996
George Woolf Memorial Award recipient.
for expanded profile.
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