Johnny Sellers, who rode Carry Back to victory in the 1961 Kentucky Derby and Preakness and was inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame in 2007, died early Friday morning in an Arkansas nursing home, according to his son Mark. He was 72.
Sellers was just 23 when he guided Carry Back to a three-quarters of a length triumph in the Derby over his archrival, Crozier. He led all North American jockeys that year with 328 wins.
Born in Los Angeles and raised in Oklahoma as a self-professed "country boy," Sellers began his riding career in 1955 and retired in 1977 with 2,787 wins from 18,636 mounts. His other career highlights included a victory aboard Hail to All in the 1965 Belmont Stakes and being honored with the George Woolf Memorial Award by his peers in 1969. He also was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated in August of his career-best year of 1961.
Even after his retirement, the easy-going, cigar-chomping Sellers remained a familiar face for years around the racetrack while working as a bloodstock agent, most notably at Gulfstream Park near his longtime home in Hallandale Beach, Fla., as well as at Calder and at various horse-sales venues.
Married and divorced four times, Sellers is survived by his son Mark, 52, a retired jockey living in Florida, and another son, John Michael, 45.
Mark Sellers said a memorial service will be held in honor of his father next Saturday, July 10, in Tulsa, and that his father would be cremated and buried next to his parents in Claremore, Okla.