Retired jockey Larry Melancon, the seventh leading jockey by wins and stakes wins in Churchill Downs history, died March 25 at his home in Louisville, Ky., according to the Louisville track. He was 65.
The former rider's health had declined in recent years after suffering a stroke in 2017.
A Louisiana native, Melancon retired from riding in 2010 after a successful career in which he won 2,857 races and more than $60 million in purses, according to Equibase statistics. He then remained active in racing, working as an assistant and exercise rider for trainer Al Stall Jr., and he briefly represented Hall of Fame rider Calvin Borel as a jockey agent.
Following his stroke, Melancon could occasionally be seen around Churchill Downs, sometimes joining Stall in winner's circle photographs.
Melancon was known for his hard work and horsemanship. Regularly securing mounts by trainers such as Niall O'Callaghan, Lynn Whiting, and Blackie Huffman, he rode Bachelor Beau, Guided Tour, Pineing Patty, Keats, Phantom On Tour, Danville, Allamerican Bertie, Undermine, Roxelana, License Fee, Off Duty, and Embossed to graded stakes victories.
During Guided Tour's successful career, O'Callaghan praised Melancon for his tireless work breezing his trainee, known as "The Bus," owing to the gelding's name and slow-paced workouts. Guided Tour won the Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs in 2001.
Melancon rode his first winner in 1971 at defunct Jefferson Downs Race Track, near New Orleans. His career would eventually take him to Kentucky, where he rode four times in the Kentucky Derby (G1), his best result being a fourth-place finish in 1976 on Amano.
Stall said Melancon was universally well-liked, recalling a summer at Saratoga Race Course with Melancon and Walker Hancock of Claiborne Farm.