Jockey Pioneer - Inducted 2004
George Woolf was born in Cardston in 1910 and developed his love for horses at an early age. By age ten he was riding in races. His first major organized race was in 1925 at the Calgary Stampede, though he honed his skills on the Prairie Circuit with races in Lethbridge, Taber, Raymond, Magrath, and Cardston. In the late 1920s, he moved to California and became the first freelance stakes riding specialist.
During his career he earned $2,856,125 aboard 3,784 mounts. He won 721 races, was second 589 times and third 486 times, finishing in the money 47 percent of the time. His major wins include the Preakness in 1936 on Bold Venture and in 1938 at Pimlico on Seabiscuit. He won the Belmont Stakes three straight times, on Occupation in 1942, Occupy in 1943, and Pavot in 1944. In 1938 George Woolf, aboard Seabiscuit, won what is said to be the greatest match race of all time, beating War Admiral to set a Pimlico track record of 1:56.
George Woolf, (along with Johnny Longden, who raced against Woolf on the Prairie Circuit), was instrumental in beginning the Jockey's Guild and was known for his sportsmanship and care for fellow jockeys. The George Woolf Memorial Award continues today and goes to the most sportsmanlike jockey.
Known as the Iceman because he was always so cool and composed despite the pressures and extreme dangers of thoroughbred racing, George Woolf left a lasting mark on the world of horse racing. He won many of the sports' biggest races, riding many legendary horses, and established a winning percentage that still stands today. His career ended with his death, at age of 35, in a Stakes race at Santa Anita, California.
George Woolf is a member of Canada's Sports Hall of Fame and the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame. A bronze statue of George Woolf and one of his greatest rides, Seabiscuit, stands outside the entrance to the Santa Anita Race track.
George Woolf has been inducted into the:
1955 - National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame
1956 - Canada's Sports Hall of Fame
1976 - Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame