Hall of Fame Rider Bobby Ussery Passes Away at Age 88
Friday, November 17, 2023

    HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Hall of Fame and Kentucky Derby winning jockey Bobby Ussery, ranked fifth all-time in earnings when he retired in 1974, has passed away in South Florida.

    Ussery, a native of Vian, Oklahoma, was 88.

    Ussery won the 1967 Kentucky Derby aboard 30-1 shot Proud Clarion. It was a mount he picked up after his original Derby mount, Reflected Glory, couldn’t make the race due to sore shins. He won the 1960 Preakness with Florida Derby winner Bally Ache.

    Sports Illustrated called Ussery’s ride aboard Proud Clarion “one of the best in Derby history.” Ussery thought he might have a good weekend in Louisville.

    "I might have won it with Bally Ache in 1960, but we finished second,” he said. “Then I thought I’d win it with Reflected Glory. When that didn’t work out, I still figured – just a hunch, I guess – that it was my year, no matter what horse I rode. I had a real hunch.”

    Ussery’s riding career started with a win aboard his first mount, Reticule, in the 1951 Thanksgiving Day Handicap at Fair Grounds. In 1959, he rode a record 215 winners. In 1960 he rode juvenile champion Hail to Reason and won the Preakness, Flamingo and Florida Derby Bally Ache. He also crossed the finish line first in the 1968 Derby, but his mount, Dancer’s Image,on  was later disqualified due to an overdose of bute; he was never paid for the ride, and he talked about his disappointment for many years. 

    In the 1960s, he discovered a riding 'secret' that he sprung on the racing world one day at Aqueduct. From an outside post on the backstretch, Ussery would make no effort to head for the inside, keeping his mount many paths out from the rail heading to the turn, then making a sharp left turn at the spot he had discovered; it acted like a sling and quickly shot him to the lead. It soon became known as "Ussery's Alley," and he used it to perfection, good for many visits to the winner's circle. 

    Other notable wins for Ussery came in the Whitney, Alabama, Travers, Hopeful, Mother Goose, Canadian International and Queen’s Plate, and the Wood Memorial twice.

    Arrangements are pending. Expressions of sympathy may be made in Ussery’s memory to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund at pdjf.org.

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