Maryland Jockey Danny Wright To Be Inducted Into Anne Arundel County Sports Hall of Fame – Horse Racing News

Maryland Jockey Danny Wright To Be Inducted Into Anne Arundel County Sports Hall of Fame – Horse Racing News

Jockey Danny Wright’s riding career coincided with one of the finest periods in Maryland racing, one that produced Hall of Famers Chris Antley, Kent Desormeaux, Chris McCarron, and Edgar Prado.

Also sharing the room during that time were local stars like Mark Johnston and Donnie Miller Jr., who between them won 19 meet titles at Laurel Park and historic Pimlico Race Course. Between 1974 and 1990, seven Maryland-based jockeys won the Eclipse Award as champion apprentice – McCarron, Ronnie Franklin, Alberto Delgado, Allen Stacy, Desormeaux, Mike Luzzi and Johnston.

Competing right alongside them all from 1976 to 1993 was Wright, held in high regard by colleagues, horsemen and fans alike for his honesty and dedication. His success over more than five decades in racing, both as a jockey and in later years as a steward, has earned Wright a spot in the Anne Arundel County Sports Hall of Fame.

“I was proud to be a part of the colony,” Wright said. “That was when, in my opinion, riding was at its best.”

Wright, who turns 76 Dec. 7, will be inducted in the 31st annual ceremony Wednesday night in Annapolis. Joining him in the Class of 2022 are retired major league pitcher Gavin Floyd, Cornell All-American wrestler Mack Lewnes and former Chesapeake High softball coach Dennis Thiele.

“I am definitely excited. I’m just tickled pink they’re not presenting it to me posthumously,” Wright said. “All kidding aside, it’s certainly something I didn’t expect. I never felt I was a standout by any stretch of the imagination, but by the same token it’s a great honor.”

A native of Brooklyn Park, Md., where he was county champion in the 95-pound weight class as a varsity wrestler, Wright made his professional debut Jan. 1, 1976 at Laurel and won his first race later that day aboard Titanic Red.

Laurel is also where Wright won his last race aboard Wilder Now Dec. 15, 1992 and rode for the last time, finishing second on No Peer March 20, 1993. Over his career, Wright won 1,424 races, a dozen graded-stakes and nearly $14 million in purse earnings.

Wright won four graded-stakes on Caesar’s Wish, who was named champion Maryland-bred filly in each of her two racing seasons. They teamed up to win the Villager (G3) and Demoiselle (G2) as a 2-year-old in 1977 and the Black-Eyed Susan (G2) and Mother Goose (G1) as a 3-year-old in 1978. In 2018, she was inducted into the Maryland Thoroughbred Hall of Fame.

“Of course, Caesar’s Wish was a fantastic opportunity. The people that own her were so good to me,” Wright said. “We won a lot of races with her.”

Wright also enjoyed success on Cormorant winning the Bay Shore (G3), Gotham (G2) and Jersey Derby (G1) in 1977, and finishing fourth behind Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew in the Preakness Stakes (G1).

“Cormorant put me on the map. He was second choice to win the [Kentucky] Derby that year, and a week before the Derby – we had actually shipped down there to work him – and as it turned out he got sick before the Derby and couldn’t run,” Wright said. “Then two weeks later, my horse was healthy and they ran him in the Preakness with me on him.

“The neat thing about that, going down the backside I’m in front, actually at that time the first horse to have been in front of Seattle Slew. I just got to thinking, ‘Man, small-town boy makes it big, right?’” he added. “[Jockey Jean] Cruguet comes up on the outside of me with a double nelson and says, ‘Where do you think you’re going, jock?’ and just blew by me. Two weeks later we won the Jersey Derby and the rest is history.”

Other graded-stakes wins for Wright came in the 1986 Cotillion (G3) and Anne Arundel County (G3) with Toes Knows; 1983 Riggs Handicap (G3) with Sun and Shine; 1977 Barbara Fritchie Handicap (G3) with Mt. Airy Queen and 1976 Patriot (G3) with In a Trace. Wright won more in purses on trainer Jim Simpson’s homebred Toes Knows, $311,892, than any other horse.

Wright went on to become a steward following his riding career, though not initially by design.

“I went to the Stewardship Accreditation Program sponsored by the University of Louisville. The very day that I passed all the tests I got a call from an executive secretary in New Jersey,” Wright said. “I had sent out resumes and he said, ‘Mr. Wright, we looked at your resume and I understand you passed all the requirements. You’re going to be our summertime steward in Atlantic City this year.’ I said, ‘Thank you, it sounds like an honor. When do I start?’ He said, ‘Tomorrow morning.’

“I had no intentions of retiring at that time. The gentleman I was working for and was first call for 17 years, J.P. Simpson, he strongly suggested that I pursue it and I did. I passed the test and this opportunity came up,” he added. “I shared it with him the next day. I told Mr. Simpson and he said, ‘Danny, take advantage of it. Don’t worry about it. When you come back, if you still want to ride, you can start back right where you left off.’”

Wright never did go back to riding races, instead enjoying a fulfilling second career as a steward, admired and respected for the same traits that made him a success on the track. He retired in December 2020 after a long stretch as chief steward at Charles Town.

“So I went to Atlantic City. I was a three-month stay during the summer meet. I worked with some great stewards down there. When I came back, I went down the shedrow with every intention of starting back riding,” Wright said. “Mr. Simpson said, ‘Danny, I’ve heard some good reports on you. I’ve been checking up on you, and you’re fired.’ I was like, ‘What?’ He said he had talked with the racing secretary and they were going to put me on part-time. He said, ‘It’s time for you to move on.’ That’s how it started.”

But before he judged horses, Wright rode them, and that will always be a great source of pride, particularly now as a Hall of Famer.

“I loved being a jock,” he said. “It just let this little man talk tall for a lot of years, and I got no complaints.”

The Anne Arundel County Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony will take place from 6-9 p.m. at the Double Tree Hotel in Annapolis. Tickets are $50 per person with proceeds to benefit Anne Arundel County youth sports.

Tickets will not be sold at the door. To purchase tickets, contact Chris Smith at 240-508-3568 or [email protected]