William J. Passmore

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William J. Passmore
Occupation Jockey/Racing Steward
Born March 8, 1933
West Chester, Pennsylvania,
United States
Died May 14, 2009
Career wins 3,531
Major racing wins
Woodlawn Stakes (1969, 1981 (2x)
John B. Campbell Handicap (1972)
Firenze Handicap (1974)
Top Flight Handicap (1975)
Gravesend Handicap (1976)
Hirsch Jacobs Stakes (1979)
Sorority Stakes (1982)
Pennsylvania Derby (1983)
Significant horses
Dixieland Band, Cure the Blues

William J. "Bill" Passmore, Sr. (March 8, 1933 – May 14, 2009) was an American jockey and racing steward, who rode thoroughbred horses for 38 years including at the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes winning 3,531 races and $23 millions in his 38-year career before spending 20 years as a steward.

The 5-foot, 5-inch, 99 pound jockey was born in West Chester, Pennsylvania, where Passmore's father, William L. Passmore, was a successful steeplechase jockey and trainer who worked for area horse breeder Bayard Sharp.[1] Passmore's first mount was on May 23, 1948 at the age of 15, one year below the legal minimum, aboard Minneapolis at the now-defunct Jamaica Racetrack in Queens, New York.[2] Passmore's father pulled him out of school at age 16 so that he could help support the family.[1]

He rode Hannibal to an eighth-place finish in a field of 16 at the 1952 running of the Kentucky Derby, the only time he rode in that race. His only appearance in the Belmont Stakes was in 1983 when he finished in 14th aboard Dixieland Band. He rode in the Preakness Stakes three times: finishing seventh aboard Galdar in 1954; riding Knight Landing to a seventh-place finish in 1980; and finished fourth aboard Thirty Eight Paces in the 1981 running.

He became the 32nd jockey in North American racing to win 3,000 races, with a 1981 victory, part of a career in which he won 3,531 races and $23 million in purses out of 29,490 mounts. He retired from racing in 1986, having interrupted his 38-year career in the early 1960s for a year-and-a-half when he worked as a jockey's valet while trying to break out of a slump. During his years as a jockey, Mr. Passmore rode regularly for King T. Leatherbury, Jim McKay and Art Rooney.[2] Among the notable horses that Passmore rode were Christopher R, Cure the Blues, Jameela and Twixt.[3]

Racing editor and historian Joseph B. Kelly of the Washington Star described Passmore as having a "great sense of pace and a great touch with horses" and as a jockey "who never seemed to get too excited and was always very calm when aboard a horse." Passmore himself told the Baltimore Sun in 1971 that he would infrequently use a whip during a stretch run, "preferring to urge his mount with his hands and body as if he were a part of the horse", as "the whip isn't going to do any good" if the horse is already giving his best.[2]

He used his experience as a jockey to serve as a steward for the Maryland Racing Commission, starting from when he left riding in 1986 until his deteriorating health forced him to retire a year before his death. Former racing writer Ross Peddicord of the Baltimore Sun described Passmore's honesty and fairness in his role as a steward making him one of the "pillars that perpetuated the reputation of Maryland racing for world-class horsemanship, undisputed class and quality...".[2] Passmore was leery of accepting betting suggestions from jockeys who he characterized as "the worst touts at the track. I think the track makes a big mistake not installing a mutuel window in the jocks' room."[2]

Passmore died at age 76 in his home in Millersville, Maryland on May 14, 2009 due to complications from emphysema. He had moved to Millersville shortly before his death, having lived in Annapolis, Maryland for the previous two decades. He is survived by his wife, the former Charlene Levy, as well as two sons, five daughters and 13 grandchildren.[2]


  1. ^ a b Wiseman, Lauren. "Underrated Jockey Stayed Close to Md.", The Washington Post, May 17, 2009. Accessed May 19, 2009.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Rasmussen, Frederick N. "William J. Passmore: Jockey and Racing Steward", Baltimore Sun, May 16, 2009. Accessed May 18, 2009.
  3. ^ via Associated Press. "Bill Passmore, Former Jockey and Racing Steward, Dies at 76", The New York Times, May 15, 2009. Accessed May 19, 2009.