U.S. horseplayers have been saddened by the unexpected death of Hall of Fame jockey Manny Ycaza, one of the leading pioneers for Latin riders in North America, who died on Monday after a brief illness.
Ycaza was 80.
Ycaza fell ill on Sunday and was transported to a New York hospital where he died. The riding legend had been in good health and was in attendance signing autographs at the recent Jockeys and Jeans fundraiser at Canterbury Downs.
Born in Panama in 1938 the son of a bus driver, Ycaza began riding professionally in his native country at age 14 and after learning the trade, arrived in the United States in the mid 1950s making a reputation for himself with an aggressive style that set him apart as a sought-after rider in the nation’s top races.
Although not the first U.S.-based rider to emigrate from Panama, Icaza paved the way for other jockeys from his homeland. Those riders include Jacinto Vasquez, Braulio Baeza, Alex Solis, Rene Douglas and Lafitt Pincay,
Ycaza posted major wins astride numerous equine stars during what some say was horseracing’s finest era. Those wins included his ride aboard Quadrangle to win the 1964 Belmont Stakes thwarting the Triple Crown bid of Northern Dancer. In 1968, Ycaza rode Dark Mirage to the first ever Filly Triple Crown when they won the Acorn Stakes, Mother Goose Stakes and the Coaching Club American Oaks.
Fellow rider Vasquez when asked about Icaza’s legacy said, “Manny was nice to everyone.”
Icaza was a 1977 inductee into the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame.