December 3, 2007 — Bill Hartack, the five-time Kentucky Derby winner and horse racing Hall of Fame jockey, was found dead on November 26 at the age of 74.
Hartack’s body was found in a cabin at a camp near Freer, Texas, where the ex-jockey had been staying during a hunting vacation. Dr. Corinne Stern of the Webb Country medical examiner’s office in Laredo, Texas, said Hartack died of natural causes due to heart disease.
Hartack, born in Ebensburg, Pa., led the nation in horse racing victories from 1955-57, winning 4,272 races over the span of his United States career and coming home in front on nearly 20 percent of his mounts, according to CBS Sports. He and Eddie Arcaro are the only two jockeys to boast five Kentucky Derby wins.
Known for his fierce competitive nature, Hartack won his first Kentucky Derby in 1957 on Iron Liege. Hartack’s horse won by a nose when friend and fellow jockey Bill Shoemaker aboard Gallant Man misjudged the finish line and stood in the stirrups prematurely to celebrate. Hartack went on to win the Derby with Venetian Way in 1960, Decidedly in 1962, Northern Dancer in 1964 and again on Majestic Prince in 1969, according to the Associated Press. He also clinched the Preakness on Fabius in 1956, Northern Dancer in 1964 and Majestic Prince in 1969. He won the Belmont Stakes once on Celtic Ash in 1960.
Hartack rode in the United States until 1974, according to the Los Angeles Times, before going overseas to ride in Hong Kong. After retiring in 1981 he worked as a racing analyst on network television, as well as a racing official and jockey’s agent.
Hartack, who made winning races his business, was the first rider to reach an annual purse earning of $3 million.
Hartack’s remains will be buried December 6 in Iberia, Mo., with a memorial service to follow December 10 at 2 p.m. at Grace Lutheran Church and Learning Center at 254 Curtiss Parkway in Miami Springs, Fla.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Bill Hartack Cemetery Memorial Fund, care of the Bank of Iberia, PO Box 205, Iberia, MO 65486.