William Passmore, 77, longtime jockey

By Lauren Wiseman
Washington Post / May 18, 2009
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WASHINGTON - William J. Passmore, 77, a thoroughbred racing jockey for more than 30 years and later a racing official, died Thursday at his home in Millersville, Md., of complications from emphysema.

Between 1948 and 1986, Mr. Passmore won 3,531 races, according to the Maryland Racing Commission.

He competed at major tracks in the United States, including Churchill Downs in Kentucky and Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.

He competed in three Preaknesses, in 1954, 1980, and 1981. He rode for trainers King Leatherbury and Charlie Peoples and for owners Art Rooney, ABC sportscaster Jim McKay, and Katie Voss.

William Joseph Passmore, who was 5-foot-5 and weighed only 99 pounds, was born in West Chester, Pa. His father, a steeplechase rider and horse trainer, pulled Mr. Passmore out of school when he was 15 so he could ride to help support the family.

He rode in New York, New Jersey, and New England before settling in Maryland in 1960.

When he started to raise a family, he decided to ride locally, traveling only as far as Delaware for races during June and July.

"He was one of the most underrated riders because he did not travel far," said Phil Grove, a racing steward at Pimlico and a former jockey who rode with Mr. Passmore.

From 1986 to 2007, he was a racing steward for the Maryland Racing Commission, helping oversee racing at Pimlico, Laurel Park, and Timonium.

Mr. Passmore leaves his wife of 54 years, Charlene of Millersville; seven children, Patricia Nilles of Boston, Cathlene Lindberg of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., Sharon of Millersville, William J. Jr. of Glenelg, Md., Ann Marie Dodds of Melbourne, Fla., James of Los Angeles, and Sandra Criss of Winchester, Mass.; two sisters; and 12 grandchildren.