11/06/2015 2:06PM

Former jockey, longtime NYRA employee Don LaPlace dies at 85


Don LaPlace, a former jockey who exercised champions Stymie and Shuvee and an employee of the New York Racing Association for parts of five decades, died Wednesday at his home in Schuylerville, N.Y. He was 85.

LaPlace, a native of Brooklyn, worked as a jockey for about a decade, riding his first winner in 1949 at Narragansett Park in Rhode Island. LaPlace would be the leading apprentice at Jamaica Racetrack.

Though he never won any major stakes, LaPlace did gallop Stymie and was the regular exercise rider for Shuvee, trained by Mike Freeman.

LaPlace stopped riding when he began to fight his weight. There was a story about him trying to fool the clerk of scales in Rhode Island by sliding his saddle slightly over the edge of the scale, which prompted a Boston Globe writer to dub LaPlace “The Butcher Boy from Brooklyn.”

After his riding career ended, LaPlace briefly trained a three-horse stable. LaPlace claims to have won two races with Net Ball and one with Mr. Patrick and retiring with a perfect 3-for-3 record.

“I was 3-0, and no one will ever beat my percentage of training horses,” LaPlace once said.

In 1962, LaPlace began working for NYRA in the mutuel department. In 1981, he became the morning line maker, a job he held until the end of 1995. In 2000, LaPlace once again made the morning line for NYRA before retiring permanently at the end of 2004.

In 1991, LaPlace was named the recipient of the New York Turf Writers Association’s Red Smith Good Guy Award.

LaPlace is survived by his wife, Joan, whom he first met in 1972 and married in 1986. They successfully bred and showed Jack Russell Terriers for many years.

A viewing will be from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday at Flynn Brothers Funeral Home, 13 Gates Ave., Schuylerville. A mass of Christian burial will be held at the Church of Notre Dame Visitation, 18 Pearl St., Schuylerville, at 10 a.m. Monday.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the General Schuyler Emergency Fund.