Inducted into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame in 2013
A decade after his retirement, Kenny Hart remains the fourth all-time winningest Quarter Horse jockey and the fifth all-time money-earning rider. Since 1970, Hart’s mounts earned $28,940,309 – and that’s on American Quarter Horses in official races alone, not the money he earned riding Thoroughbreds or match races.
The first Quarter Horse jockey to ride the earners of more than $1 million in a single season (with $1,275,052 in 1977), Hart was the sport’s leading rider by money earned seven different seasons (1977-78, 1980-83 and 1985). In 1981, he became the first jockey to exceed $2 million in a season ($2,091,097), and continued to ride the earners of more than $2 million each year through 1985, when he rode the then-record earners of $2,628,431 and was the AQHA Champion Jockey.
Born November 16, 1947, and raised on a ranch near the West Texas town of Post, Hart won on his first mount, a match race at Aspermont, Texas, in 1962. Five years later, he joined the pari-mutuel ranks at Ruidoso Downs.
Hart attributes his success to advice from his father: “My dad always told me, no matter what you’re going to do, be sure you are hooked up with the right people.” Those people include American Quarter Horse Hall of Famers Blane Schvaneveldt, Jack Brooks, D. Wayne Lukas, Jerry Nicodemus, Danny Cardoza and Scoop Vessels.
“There are no other racetrackers in my family,” he said, reflecting on his career as he hung up his tack in retirement. “I was raised on a cattle ranch, 21 miles from town, and I was always what they called a kamikaze. I didn’t have any fear of horses, and I’ve had my rear whipped a lot of times for doing things horseback that I shouldn’t have done. No one ever thought I’d grow up to be any kind of horseman. But I’ll tell you something: I know I only weigh 115 pounds stripped, but if I put my mind to something, I’ll figure out how to get it done.”
Kenny Hart was inducted into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame in 2013.