02/22/2013 8:28PM

Merlin Volzke, jockey and California steward, dead at 87

Benoit Photo
Merlin Volzke was a steward at Bay Meadows and Los Alamitos for 26 years.

Longtime rider and racing official Merlin Volzke, 87, died at his home in Sacramento on Thursday night.

A native of York, Neb., Volzke recorded his first victory at Aqua Caliente in Mexico in 1942 and retired from riding in 1979. He then served as a steward at Bay Meadows and Los Alamitos for 26 years before retiring in 2005.

Volzke guided Native Diver to his first stakes victory in the 1961 El Camino Handicap at the old Tanforan Racetrack in San Bruno, Calif. He also won the 1970 Hollywood Derby with Hanalei Bay. Volzke's other major stakes wins included the 1964 San Pasqual with Phil D., the 1968 San Gabriel and 1969 Kilroe Mile with Rivet, and the 1969 San Miguel Stakes with Mr. Joe F.

Volzke won back-to-back riding title at Longacres in Renton, Wash., in 1947-48.

Volzke was voted the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award at Santa Anita in 1958 and the Jack Robinson Memorial Award at Bay Meadows in 1975. In 2009, he became the first former rider to be awarded the Laffit Pincay Jr. Award, presented annually to an individual who has served the sport of horse racing with integrity, extraordinary dedication, determination, and distinction.

Volzke is survived by his wife, Catherine, a daughter, Eileen Miller, a granddaughter, a grandson and three great grandsons. 

Services will be private.