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John H. Adams

John H. Adams
Induction Year: 
Sept. 1, 1915, Carlisle, Ark.
Aug. 19, 1995, Arcadia, Calif.
Career Years: 
Number of Mounts: 
Number of Winners: 
Winning Percentage: 

Tab Wrapper


Three times America’s leading rider, Johnny Adams topped the list in 1937 with 260 wins, in 1942 with 245 wins, and the next year with 228 wins. When he rode his 3,000th winner in 1955, only three jockeys — Johnny Longden, Eddie Arcaro, and Ted Atkinson — had won more races.


Born in Arkansas in 1915, Adams grew up in Iola, Kansas, and won his first race in 1934 at old Riverside Park in Kansas City. A short, barrel-chested man, at 4-foot-8, Adams was known as the “Iola Mite.” He rode with a long rein and was not known as a stylish rider, but one with good hands and a sure sense of pace who always seemed to know just when to move a horse.


Adams won six races on a card at Bay Meadows in 1938 and six in a day at Thistledown in 1942. During a three-day period at Lincoln Fields in 1952, Adams won on 12 of his 14 mounts. He won the Santa Anita Handicap aboard Kayak II in 1939 and in 1946 with War Knight, as well as the 1954 Preakness Stakes with Hasty Road. He also won the Kentucky Oaks and Hollywood Derby twice each.


When he retired in 1958 and turned to training, his first winner was ridden by his son, John R. Adams. His biggest victory as a trainer was the 1977 Swaps Stakes, for which he saddled J. O. Tobin to an upset victory against unbeaten Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew.


Adams finished his riding career with 3,270 wins. He won the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award in 1956.