Jockey Ray York, who won Kentucky Derby at age 20, dies

Jockeys and their horses race during the 2008 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.
(Andy Lyons / Getty Images)

Jockey Ray York, who won the Kentucky Derby in 1954 at the age of 20, died Sunday at a care facility near Bakersfield after a lengthy bout with pneumonia. He was 86.

York first came to national prominence when he won the Kentucky Derby aboard Determine, who won the 1954 Santa Anita Derby and won the Strub Stakes a year later. York won 3,082 races and in 1955 won the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, which is given to a rider who epitomizes the high standards of a jockey on and off the race course.

On Jan, 13, 2000, York rode in a claiming race at Santa Anita, making him the first jockey to ride in seven decades. He was riding for trainer Henry Moreno, who also died on Sunday at the age of 90.

Santa Anita had a eighth horse die while training or racing on Thursday when Unveiled suffered a fracture to his right front leg while galloping during morning training.

Feb. 20, 2020

“In his day, Ray could ride with anybody,” trainer Clay Brinson told Santa Anita. “Ray had great instincts and he was a big-money jock, no question. … Ray had a great personality and he gave everybody their money’s worth, owners, trainers and the people betting on the horses.”


York was the three-time leading jockey at Del Mar (1957, 1962, 1964) and in his later riding years moved from Southern California to Turf Paradise, Ariz., in the late 1960s. In 1970, he won seven races in one day.

York is survived by Michael McKay, his longtime girlfriend, and children Bonnie Wunner, Ray York Jr. and Jeff York. Funeral services will be held in Taft, Calif., on March 7.