05/27/2014 9:10AM

Famed steeplechase rider Aitcheson dies at 85

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Joe Aitcheson Jr., the steeplechase rider who was inducted in 1978 into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, died Friday at a hospice facility in Westminster, Md., following a long illness, according to an obituary from his family. Aitcheson was 85.

Aitcheson was inducted into the Hall of Fame despite having only 478 wins during a 20-year riding career from 1957-77. The induction was a measure of his importance to steeplechase racing, with multiple wins in the sport’s most prestigious races. His biography at the Hall of Fame calls him “arguably the greatest of all time.”

Aitcheson won eight Virginia Gold Cups, seven Carolina Cups, and six International Gold Cups. He was the leading steeplechase rider in seven years during his career, a record, and was the regular rider of eight of the sport’s champions at year’s end: Peal (1961), Amber Diver (1963), Bon Nouvel (1964-65 and 1968), Tuscalee (1966), Top Bid (1970), and Soothsayer (1972). He had 478 career steeplechase wins.

He was the only rider to be awarded the National Steeplechase and Hunt Association’s F. Ambrose Clark Award, the highest honor in the sport, in 1976.

Aitcheson was born in Olney, Md., the heart of steeplechase country. His father was an athlete, pitching for the Brooklyn Dodgers. As a teenager, he worked in an uncle’s riding stable. Aitcheson was a veteran, serving four tours in the Korean War as a gunner’s mate on the U.S.S. Oriskany. After being discharged at age 28, he started his steeplechase career.

Chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
More information about Jockey Aitcheson may be found at National Steeplechase.com Thanks Joe...
Jake Secor More than 1 year ago
This is possibly one of the poorest written articles I have ever seen in the Form. First off, " despite a relatively paltry total of 478 wins" Are you kidding me? The average steeplechase jockey rides 30-50 races a year- so over a 30-year career that’s 1500 mounts. So almost 500 wins are not "paltry" it’s Superhuman. A man who was as you report "Hall of Fame calls him “arguably the greatest of all time.” Deserves a bit than this- a staff writer with 30 minutes to deadline story. You read his HOF story; any 12-year-old kid in Saratoga can do that. How about have Joe Clancy Who is someone who knows the history of the sport and can give this the all time leader of the sport the respect he deserves. Joe was like Shoemaker, Cordero and Pincay combined to the jumping game. Matt your approach to this article gives me the image of a monkey with a razor blade. Do your homework son. Joe Aitcheson deserves better that. RIP
westpointtom More than 1 year ago
Very disappointing
Bob Rose More than 1 year ago
May God Bless you Joe as you make the biggest leap ever, from Earth to Heaven. I was fortunate enough to have met Joe back around 1953 in Middleburg, Va. He came to town to ride and I went with him the day before to show him the way. I was amazed at how he walked the course marking each jumps approach and departure! He was still an apprentice then, and I had the pleasure of watching each ride into the history books. Rest in Peace Joe, and know you left many of us in awe.