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Wayne D. Wright

Wayne D. Wright
Induction Year: 
Aug. 21, 1916, Rexburg, Idaho
March 11, 2003, Yerington, Nev.
Career Years: 
Number of Mounts: 
Number of Winners: 
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Tab Wrapper


In a golden age of racing that featured legendary jockeys such as Arcaro, Atkinson, Longden, Westrope and Woolf, a product of Rexburg, Idaho, named Wayne Danforth Wright proved himself to belong in such elite company.


Wright, who won each race in the Triple Crown series and was twice the leading jockey in North America during his career in the irons, joins the top riders of his era with his 2016 election to the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame via the Historic Review Committee.


In a career that spanned from 1931 through 1949, Wright won 1,492 races (15.3 percent) and piloted a winner of the Kentucky Derby (Shut Out in 1942), Preakness Stakes (Polynesian in 1945) and Belmont Stakes (Peace Chance in 1934). Among the most consistent and respected riders of his generation, Wright finished in the top five in earnings each year from 1933 through 1938 and topped the list in both 1934 and 1936. He also ranked among the top 10 in wins four consecutive years (1932 through 1935) and was among the top 15 in earnings eight times in his career.


In 1931, about six weeks prior to his 15th birthday, Wright won his first race on July 11 at Reno, Nev. The following year, Wright arrived on the national scene with 146 wins to rank sixth overall among North American riders. In 1933, Wright increased his win total to 228, finishing second behind only future Hall of Famer Jack Westrope (301). Wright’s earnings of $168,225 placed fourth nationally and marked the first of six straight years he finished in the top five in the category.


Wright led all jockeys in earnings in 1934 with $287,185 and won 174 races to rank fifth nationally. He won his first Triple Crown race that year at the age of 17 when he piloted Joseph E. Widener’s Peace Chance to win the Belmont Stakes, defeating Preakness winner High Quest by six lengths. Prior to the Belmont, Wright was aboard Peace Chance when he set a stakes record of 1:35⅘ for one mile in the Derby Trial. The record time stood until 1952 when Hill Gail clocked 1:35⅖. In 1936, Wright again led all riders in earnings at $264,000.


In 1942, Wright won the Kentucky Derby aboard Greentree Stable’s Shut Out. Greentree trainer John Gaver gave Eddie Arcaro his choice of mounts between Devil Diver and Shut Out. Arcaro chose Devil Diver and finished sixth, as Wright won the Run for the Roses. Wright won the Preakness Stakes three years later with Polynesian for owner Gertrude T. Widener to secure his missing victory in the Triple Crown series.


Wright also won races aboard two Triple Crown winners. He won three times with 1938 Triple Crown winner War Admiral, including the Whitney Handicap and Jockey Club Gold Cup. He also won the Dwyer Stakes and Arlington Classic with 1935 Triple Crown winner Omaha. Wright rode a third member of the Hall of Fame, Eight Thirty, to victory in the 1938 Flash Stakes.


Major wins for Wright included two runnings each of the Champagne Stakes (1934, 1935), Arlington Classic (1935, 1938), Dwyer Stakes (1935, 1940), Fashion Stakes (1938, 1939), Flash Stakes (1938, 1946), Rosedale Handicap (1933, 1939), Saranac Handicap (1934, 1945), Toboggan Handicap (1938, 1946), Withers Stakes (1935, 1945) and Yonkers Handicap (1940, 1945).


Wright also won single editions of the Travers Stakes (1937), Santa Anita Derby (1936), Santa Anita Handicap (1936), Saratoga Cup (1935), Wood Memorial (1942), Saratoga Special (1945), Spinaway Stakes (1935), Sanford Stakes (1938), Chicago Derby (1933), Comely Stakes (1945), Continental Handicap (1942), Delaware Handicap (1934), Demoiselle Handicap (1938), Excelsior Handicap (1938), Flamingo Stakes (1936), Futurity Stakes (1934), Gazelle Stakes (1936), Great American Stakes (1945), Jerome Handicap (1940), Jersey Handicap (1944), Manhattan Handicap (1937), Matron Stakes (1940), Narragansett Special (1935), Pimlico Futurity (1939), Potomac Handicap (1939), Remsen Handicap (1943) and Rhode Island Handicap (1940).


Battling weight gain, Wright retired as a rider in 1950 and spent some time training horses until 1956 when he and his wife, Nadia, purchased an 80-acre farm near his sister in Wellington, Nev. Wright spent the rest of his life on his Nevada farm with saddle horses and other animals and also raised alfalfa. He died March 11, 2003 at the age of 86.