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Inspiring Canadians - In Sport and Life

Honoured Member

GEORGE WOOLF

Inducted in 1956

Member Details

Date of Birth: May 10, 1910
Place of Birth: Cardston, Alberta
Date of Passing: January 4, 1946
Sport: Jockey Racing
Member Category: Athlete

Career Highlights

1936

Winner, Preakness with Bold Venture

1938

Winner, Pimlico Special with Seabiscuit

1942,44

Leading money-winning rider in the US

1945

Winner, Santa Anita Derby with Bymeabond

1950

George Woolf Memorial Award established

Honoured Member GEORGE WOOLF
Inspire

Story

It was once said that jockey George Woolf had "the temperament of a champion. Either all fire, or cold as ice," an apt description that was especially apparent in his unique tactics on the racetrack. Woolf knew how to judge his mount and knew when the moment was right to make a move. He was known as "The Iceman" for his ability to wait with his horse, keeping his cool and riding with the pack until the last stage of the race, when he would blaze ahead, leaving the competition in his smoking tracks. Woolf was born in the foothills of Cardston, Alberta, to a horse-loving family. His father and two brothers were rodeo riders, his mother had been a circus trick rider, and young George was comfortable in a saddle before he was steady on his own two feet. Woolf spent a few years on Canadian tracks before joining the American circuit in 1928. He rode his first winner that year at Tijuana, and his success quickly grew until the Iceman was known as one of America's top jockeys. In 19 years of racing, he collected 721 wins, 589 seconds, and 468 thirds. Although only 13 of those years were spent on recognized tracks, he was able to collect an astounding 97 victories in major U.S. stakes races. Among his greatest triumphs were the 1936 Preakness with Bold Venture, as well three victories in each of the American Derby, the Havre de Grace Handicap, the Belmont Futurity, and the Hollywood Gold Cup. Only the Kentucky Derby eluded him. Woolf's most spectacular achievement came in 1938 when he rode the famous Seabiscuit to victory over triple-crown winner War Admiral in a great match race at the Pimlico Special. Woolf also rode such eminent steeds as Whirlaway, Alsab, Pavot, Challedon and Kayak II. In both 1942 and 1944, he was the leading money-winning rider in the United States. Likely the only reason that he never reached the level of champion jockey (most wins in a year) was because he didn't accept nearly as many mounts as other riders. By the mid-1940s, the effects of diabetes had begun to take their toll, leaving Woolf struggling with his weight. He opened a restaurant in Arcadia, California, and though he toyed with the idea of retiring from the track, the Iceman could not be kept away. In 1945, Woolf raced Bymeabond to victory at the Santa Anita Derby. The following year, however, tragedy struck. Woolf was riding Please Me at Santa Anita, when the horse suddenly stumbled, throwing him to the ground. He never regained consciousness and died later that night in hospital. In memory of the great Iceman, a life-sized bronze statue was erected outside the Santa Anita Racetrack. In 1950, the George Woolf Memorial Award was established in his honour to be awarded annually to the North American jockey who best demonstrates excellence in professional and personal conduct, both on and off the track. For his own exceptional record, Woolf was inducted into the American National Museum of Horse Racing and Hall of Fame in 1955 and the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 1976.


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