Fair Grounds Hall of Fame jockey Johnny Heckmann died at his home in New Orleans on Saturday. He was 83.
In a career that began when he was teenager until his final retirement in 1970, Heckmann, a New Orleans native, won more than 1,400 races.
His best year was 1956, when Heckmann was fourth nationally in victories behind Hall of Famers Willie Hartack, Willie Shoemaker and Johnny Longden. That was also the year Heckmann tied a U.S. record by riding seven winners in one day at Hawthorne Race Course in Chicago.
Heckmann rode extensively at the Fair Grounds and Jefferson Downs and at tracks in Kentucky, Michigan and Illinois.
At the Fair Grounds, Heckmann was the primary rider for the stable of Joe and Dorothy Brown.
Heckmann had two Louisiana Derby winners: Royal Union in 1958 and Dapper Delegate in 1965.
Dapper Delegate, whom Heckmann called the best horse he ever rode, was to have run in the Kentucky Derby that year, but after being shipped to Kentucky, he died of colitis.
“It was devastating. It was tough,” Heckmann said in a 2003 interview. “I thought he had a great chance to win the Derby.”
After his retirement from riding, Heckmann was employed by Zito Marine. He was well-known in his Uptown neighborhood for his love of gardening and for raising Pomeranians.
Heckmann was inducted into the Fair Grounds Hall of Fame in 1998. He also was voted to the Hawthorne Hall of Fame.
Heckmann is survived by a sister, Cherie Ringel of New Orleans. Funeral arrangements are incomplete.