John Rotz, a Hall of Fame jockey who won the Preakness and Belmont Stakes during his career, has died at 86.
He died at his farm in Warrensburg, Illinois, southwest of Champaign, on Monday, according to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, which spoke to his family. No cause of death was given.
Rotz won 2,907 races during a 20-year career that began in 1953. He got his start in racing at Fairmount Park in Collinsville, Illinois, where he worked as a groom, hot walker and exercise rider out of high school.
Known as “Gentleman John” because of his polite demeanor, Rotz began his career riding in fairs in the Midwest before becoming the leading rider in New York in 1961 and 1962.
He won the Preakness Stakes by a nose aboard Greek Money in 1962 and the Belmont Stakes on High Echelon in 1970. He rode in the Kentucky Derby six times, with his best finish being fourth aboard Native Charger in 1965.
Rotz rode such Hall of Fame horses as Carry Back, Dr. Fager, Gallant Bloom and Ta Wee, as well as champion Silent Screen. He retired in 1973 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1983.
Rotz had a gentle touch with temperamental horses and was known for his success with fillies. He won notable races aboard such top fillies as Deceit, What a Treat, Rose Bower, Obeah, Castle Forbes, Indian Maid, Rash Statement, and Chou Croute.
After his riding career ended, Rotz worked as a steward for 10 years at tracks in New York, Louisiana, Ohio and Delaware. In 1983, he and wife Mary moved to Warrensburg. Rotz began riding quarter horses in Western riding competitions. He competed into his 70s at shows in the Midwest.