Year Inducted: 2011
From milking cows and raising chickens in Westville, Oklahoma, John Lively and his dear wife Pat, discovered a different kind of animal that would butter their bread.
Like many jockeys from the Mid-South, Lively began his career as a jockey by riding in Quarter Horse match races. John first rode in Westville before moving to Sallisaw, Oklahoma and to far off Laverne, Oklahoma … and beyond!
The first circuit Lively rode, took him on the road to Raton, New Mexico, then Albuquerque and to Centennial Park in Denver.
‘Gentleman John’ found his niche in Midwest racing due to his unquestionable riding skill and his overwhelming classy nature. His first leading jockey title came in 1971 at Ak-Sar-Ben in Omaha, Nebraska. The following year he was leading rider at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas and from there Lively’s career really took flight.
Lively’s class attracted classy horses. In 1976, he won the Arkansas Derby with Elocutionist before finishing third in the Kentucky Derby and then going on to win the second jewel of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes.
In 1981, Bold Ego took Lively on a similar path. The New Mexico-bred colt won the Arkansas Derby before leaving for Baltimore and Pimlico Race Course for the Preakness. This time Lively settled for second, yielding to Kentucky Derby winner, Pleasant Colony.
It was on a regional level where the attributes of John Lively were most appreciated and where he enjoyed much success thanks to the long-lasting relationships he developed early in his career. He rode nearly 1,600 hundred races for Coloradan Hoss Inman and for many of the 253 winners they achieved together, most of them had Lively proudly wearing Hoss’s Flying I Ranch purple colors.
Lively rode plenty of winners for Don Von Hemel as well. The patriarch of the training Von Hemels gave Lively a leg up on Klass A Rama in Omaha, the mount produced the 3,000th career win for the classy rider.
In all, Lively was the leading rider at Ak-Sar-Ben a record 10 times and was inducted into the Nebraska Racing Hall of Fame in 1978. He was twice the champion jockey at Oaklawn as well as leading rider at Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Centennial Park in Denver and Hawthorne and Sportsman’s Park in Chicago.
John was also the leading rider here at Remington Park for the inaugural meet in 1988. The richest race he won in his career, was the $250,000 Remington Park Derby (now known as the Oklahoma Derby) with Wicked Destiny who was trained by fellow Oklahoma Horse Racing Hall of Fame inductee Chuck Taliaferro.
Without question, one of Lively’s biggest honors was being voted the 1990 George Woolf Award winner, which recognizes a jockey’s character as much as their career.
Once he decided to call it a career, Lively had amassed 3,468 Thoroughbred wins with mount earnings totaling $32,573,504.