Hall of Fame jockey Johnny Sellers dead at 72

Hall of Fame jockey Johnny Sellers died Friday, July 2, 2010 in a Fayetteville, Ark., nursing home. Sellers, who piloted Carry Back to two-thirds of the 1961 Triple Crown, was 72.

A native of Los Angeles, Sellers was raised on a farm outside Tulsa, Okla., and began riding at age 16. He scored his first success at Sunshine Park (now Tampa Bay Downs) in 1955 and added 2,786 more victories. He retired from riding in 1977.

Sellers won 328 races in 1961, the most among all riders in North America, including seven stakes aboard the diminutive Florida-bred Carry Back, who registered victories in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, Flamingo Stakes, Florida Derby, Everglades Stakes, Jerome Handicap and Trenton Handicap. Carry Back came back sore following his seventh-place finish to Sherluck in the Belmont Stakes, but did enough throughout the remainder of the year to be named champion three-year-old male in the major contemporary polls. Sellers continued to ride Carry Back sporadically after 1961, winning the 1962 Whitney Stakes and 1963 Trenton Handicap in the champion’s final start.

Sellers, who graced the cover of Sports Illustrated in an August 1961 issue, later claimed his personal Triple Crown when guiding Hail to All to a victory in the 1965 Belmont, which was contested at Aqueduct. He was honored by his peers with the George Woolf Memorial award in 1969.

At the conclusion of his riding career, Sellers worked as a bloodstock agent in Florida. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007.

Sellers is survived by two sons, Mark, a retired jockey, and John Michael. A memorial service will be held July 10 in Tulsa and Sellers will be buried next to his parents in Claremore, Okla.

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