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Mike Manganello

  • Sport: Horse Racing
  • Decade Inducted: 2010s

Legendary horse racing jockey with over 2,500 career wins and champion of the 1970 Kentucky Derby.

Mike Manganello, a multiple graded stakes winning jockey, was born in the Dutch Point section of Hartford, Connecticut, the second of six children born to Lillian and Anthony Manganello. Mike shined shoes and sold newspapers to earn money to ride horses at a local park. That’s where his love of horses was born.

At the age of 15, he boldly walked into the office of Art McGinley, Hartford Time’s Sports Editor and told him that he wanted to become a jockey. Mr. McGinley saw that he had a small build with a fine pair of hands and sent him to Narragansett Park to see Odie Clelland, one of the better trainers at New England tracks and a good tutor for aspiring jockeys.

Under the guidance of Odie, he learned every aspect of racing as well as caring for horses. Mike rode his first winner at Fair Grounds Race Course aboard Will Step, March 3, 1960. That was the first of over 2500 wins during his career as a jockey.

The highlight of his career and every jockey’s dream, was winning the 1970 Kentucky Derby aboard Dust Commander. Other notable races he won include the Ohio Derby, Hawthorne Derby, Bluegrass Stakes and was the Fall Championship winner a record five times at Latonia Race Track. As a long-time fan favorite at Florida Downs in Oldsmar, Florida, Mike set a season record with 75 wins in 1969, and by 1975 had won five riding titles. He also won seven riding championships at the three tracks in the Cleveland area during the late 1960’s. As of 2016, he ranks number twenty as an All-Time Win Leader at Churchill Downs.

Seeking a change of pace in 1979, Mike began his career as a thoroughbred trainer. He trained for notable owners he had previously ridden for such as George Steinbrenner, Ann and Lloyd Ferrentino, and Preston Madden. By the middle of 1984, he returned to riding and continued until he stopped in 1991 to become a racing official. Mike would spend another twenty-five years officiating races as a thoroughbred Steward before retiring in 2017.

Often described as one of racing’s nice guys, he remains close to Verna Lehmann, owner of Dust Commander and his trainer Don Combs. In 2013 the remains of Dust Commander were buried at the Kentucky Derby Museum. Only four other race horses share this honor. Mike makes frequent appearances at tracks and charity events.

Mike Manganello was inducted into the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in 2017.