Cindy's Horse Racing Website Index

Oldest Kentucky Derby winning jockey passes away

Jockey Ira "Babe" Hanford
November 24, 2009

Ira "Babe" Hanford, 91, who won the 1936 Kentucky Derby aboard Bold Venture passed away on November 21st in Ocala, Florida, after a lengthy illness. "Babe" was the first apprentice jockey to win the Kentucky Derby. One of ten children, "Babe" grew up in Fairbury, Nebraska and followed his two brothers to the East Coast to become a jockey. His oldest brother "Buddy" died after sustaining a head injury in a race at Pimlico Race Course in 1933. His brother Carl, now 93, is a Hall of Fame trainer best known for training 5 time horse of the year Kelso.

Hanford returned to Churchill Downs for the first time since his 1936 victory in May of 2006 as a guest of Jane Dempsey's Kentucky Derby Junket. "Babe and I enjoyed celebrating the 70th anniversary of his winning ride by attending the 2006 Kentucky Derby." said his wife of 67 years Virginia (Ginny) Hanford.

Hanford puts his handprints in cement for the Gallop to Glory at the Galt House in May 2006
Jane Dempsey said, "It was truly an honor and pleasure to be able to spend a week at the Kentucky Derby with Babe and hear his tales from the 1936 Kentucky Derby firsthand."

In addition to his wife, Ginny and his brother Carl, "Babe" is survived by his two sons, Glenn and Gary and numerous nieces and nephews including trainer Gail Hanford. There will be a private service on Saturday, November 28th. In lieu of flowers, the family request that donation be made to the Kentucky Derby Museum to help them recover from their devastating flood damage.

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