October 28, 2021

John Rotz, Hall of Fame jockey, dead at 86

John Rotz (Bill Mochon/National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame)

“Gentleman John” Rotz, the retired Hall of Fame jockey and former Jockey Club steward in New York, died July 12 at the age of 86 at his home in Warrensburg, Illinois. Rotz’s riding career spanned the years 1953-73, during which he rode 2,907 winners and was honored with the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award in 1973.

Rotz earned classic victories aboard Greek Money in the 1962 Preakness and on High Echelon in the 1970 Belmont S., and also won major stakes aboard an assortment of others champions of the 1960s and early 1970s.

Greek Money’s Preakness win came at the expense of Ridan, who looked to have edged clear in the final strides after a long stretch duel. However, Greek Money miraculously re-rallied and won narrowly.

Manny Ycaza, the rider of Ridan, claimed foul against Greek Money for bumping, but the objection proved frivolous after film revealed that Ycaza had leaned over and elbowed Rotz in the chest in deep stretch. The result stood and Ycaza was suspended 10 days.

Eight years later, Rotz earned his second Triple Crown race win aboard High Echelon, who was giving the family of Hall of Fame trainer Hirsch Jacobs, who had passed away earlier that year, their second classic victory of the season following Personality’s victory in the Preakness.

The closest Rotz came to winning the Kentucky Derby in six attempts was in 1965, when he guided Native Charger to a fourth-place finish behind Lucky Debonair.

Rotz proved adept at riding some of the best fillies of his era, including Hall of Famers Gallant Bloom and Ta Wee. Gallant Bloom won eight stakes under Rotz, while two-time sprint champion Ta Wee won 10 stakes, including the 1970 editions of the Fall Highweight H. and Interborough H. while carrying imposts of 140 and 142 pounds, respectively.

Rotz was also the regular rider of What a Treat, the 1965 champion three-year-old filly, and Silent Screen, the champion two-year-old colt of 1969.

Other Hall of Fame horses Rotz had an opportunity to ride to stakes wins included Dr. Fager and Carry Back. Rotz substituted aboard Dr. Fager in the 1968 Roseben H. and was up for Carry Back’s wins over Kelso in the 1962 editions of the Metropolitan H. and Monmouth H.

Rotz, a 1983 Hall of Fame inductee, also won stakes aboard champions Cicada, Chou Croute, Mongo, Office Queen, Parka, Roman Brother, and Run the Gantlet.