John Eric Longden (February 14, 1907 – February 14, 2003) was an American Hall of Fame jockey who was born in Wakefield, Yorkshire, England. His father emigrated to Canada in 1909, settling in Taber, Alberta. By 1912, Longden Sr. had saved enough money to send for his wife and young son to join him in Canada. However, the Longdens' train was late getting to the port of Southampton, and they missed their scheduled voyage to New York City on the Titanic. [dead link]
As a young man, Johnny Longden worked in the mining industry. His love of horses and horse-racing led him to leave Canada in 1927 to seek opportunities as a jockey in California's burgeoning racing scene. Based at Santa Anita Park, by 1956 he had become thoroughbred racing's winningest rider, breaking the record of 4,870 wins by British jockey Sir Gordon Richards (1904–1988). During his illustrious career, Longden, who was called "The Pumper" by his fellow jockeys because of his riding style, rode many of the great thoroughbreds of the day. In 1943, he captured the United States Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing winning the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes aboard Count Fleet. A sculptured bust of Longden, along with busts of fellow jockeys William Shoemaker and Laffit Pincay, has been placed in the paddock area at Santa Anita Racetrack in Arcadia, California.
A founding member of the Jockeys' Guild in 1940, Longden was the United States' leading jockey in races won in 1938, 1947, and 1948. He was also the leading jockey in purses won in 1943 and 1945. He was voted the prestigious George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award in 1952 that honors a rider whose career and personal conduct exemplify the very best example of participants in the sport of thoroughbred racing. In 1958, Longden was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. He retired the following year as the jockey with the most wins in racing history with 6,032 victories from his 32,413 mounts. His last ride was in the 1966 San Juan Capistrano Handicap at Santa Anita Park, which he won aboard George Royal in a stretch duel. The clubhouse at Santa Anita Park contains an oil painting of the finish of this race. The image was used for the cover of the Santa Anita official program during the 1967 racing season.
During the 1956-57 season of I Love Lucy, Longden portrayed himself in the episode entitled "Lucy And The Loving Cup." Desi Arnaz as "Ricky" awarded the cup to Longden, but it was attached to Lucy's head. Earlier in the day, Lucy put the cup over her head as a joke, but it got stuck and she was unable to remove it. Instead she traveled all over NYC on the subway unable to see where she was going as she was separated from Ethel. Johnny stated that it was a nice cup and that it would look good in his trophy collection but wondered what he was going to do with Ricky's wife.
Longden operated a racing stable under the name Alberta Ranches Ltd. in partnership with longtime friend Max Bell. On January 28, 1971, Longden's wife Hazel became the first woman to train a stakes winner at Santa Anita Park when her horse Diplomatic Agent won the San Vicente Stakes. Longden's sons Eric and Vance Longden both became horse trainers.
Following his retirement from riding, Longden turned to training and became the only person to ever win the Kentucky Derby as both a jockey and trainer when he captured the 1969 Derby with Max Bell's colt Majestic Prince. Longden was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame on its formation in 1976. He went on to become the second ever recipient of the Avelino Gomez Memorial Award in 1985, given annually to jockeys who have made significant contributions to the sport. In 1994, he was recognized further by the North American racing industry with a Special Eclipse Award.
As of 2006, Longden still holds five track records at Santa Anita Park.
Johnny Longden died on his 96th birthday on St. Valentine's Day at his home in Banning, California.
- Beckwith, B. K. The Longden Legend. (1973) A. S. Barnes Publishing Co. ISBN 0-498-01242-5
- Churchill Dowwns Incorporated profile on Johnny Longden
- Newsreel of his last race
- Drager, Marvin. The Most Glorious Crown: The Story Of America's Triple Crown Thoroughbreds From Sir Barton To Affirmed (2005) Triumph Books ISBN 1-57243-724-3
- Referenced in Season 5: The Fox Hunt of "I Love Lucy" when Fred Mertz notes, "Yeah, she didn't exactly look like Johnny Longden sitting up there."
- Cameo appearance with wife, Hazel, in Season 6: "Lucy and the Loving Cup" of "I Love Lucy," first broadcast Jan. 7 1957.
- Del Mar Media Guide
- John Eric Longden at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame