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Joe Aitcheson, Jr.

Joe Aitcheson, Jr.
Induction Year: 
July 31, 1928, Olney, Md.
May 24, 2014, Westminster, Md.
Career Years: 
Number of Mounts: 
Number of Winners: 
Winning Percentage: 

Tab Wrapper


Joe Aitcheson, whose father pitched for the Brooklyn Dodgers, grew up working for his uncle’s riding stable, cleaning barns and guiding trail rides. After high school, Aitcheson enrolled at the University of Maryland before enlisting in the United States Navy. He served four years during the Korean War as a gunner’s mate on the U.S.S. Oriskany. Upon his discharge at age 28, Aitcheson became a steeplechase jockey, arguably the greatest of all time.


When he retired from riding after a prodigious 21-year career, Aitcheson had won a record 440 steeplechase races and led all North American jump riders in wins a record seven times, including a single-season mark of 40 wins in 1964. He also won 38 races on the flat at hunt meetings during his career.


Aitcheson won the Virginia Gold Cups eight times; the Carolina Cup seven times; the International Gold Cup six times; and the Temple Gwathmey, Noel Laing, Midsummer, and Manly five times each. Aitcheson rode many of his era’s champions, including Peal (1961), Amber Diver (1963), Hall of Famer Bon Nouvel (1964, 1965 and 1968), Hall of Famer Tuscalee (1966), Top Bid (1970), and Soothsayer (1972).


Aitcheson, whom legendary writer Red Smith once said was “held together with bailing wire and tape” because of the numerous injuries he suffered through riding, became the first jockey ever to receive the National Steeplechase and Hunt Association’s F. Ambrose Clark Memorial Award in 1976.


“I lived steeplechasing. I ate, drank, and slept it,” Aitcheson once told the Daily Racing Form. “If I rode a bad race it would take me three or four days to get over it.”