Former Jockey, Racing Official George Taniguchi Passes At Age 94 - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Former Jockey, Racing Official George Taniguchi Passes At Age 94

George Taniguchi

George Taniguchi, believed to be America's first Japanese-American jockey and later a highly respected Southern California racing official, passed away at age 94 following a brief illness at his home in Palm Springs in early March, according to his niece Donna Johnson, who had served as his caretaker.

Born in 1926 in the farming community of El Centro, CA, Taniguchi's family moved to Los Angeles following World War II and he quickly became enamored with acting—which led to a chance encounter with major league horseracing at Hollywood Park in 1950.

In search of a producer whom he hoped would give him a leading role in MGM's “Go for Broke,” Taniguchi high-tailed it to the Track of the Lakes and Flowers, only to be denied entrance to the Turf Club. Although dejected, Taniguchi soon liked what he saw on the track and was told to contact a quarter horse trainer in Bakersfield named Jimmy Monji—who would later train quarter horses for Ed Allred, who would later become the owner of Los Alamitos Racecourse.

According to Taniguchi, in a story published in Discover Nikkei on Aug. 10, 2020, it was Monji who taught him how to ride with a horse, not just on a horse. His experience with Monji in Bakersfield led to him becoming a freelance exercise boy at Hollywood Park in 1952 and then a licensed jockey in 1954.

Hollywood Park's leading apprentice and a winner of a career-high 230 races in 1954, Taniguchi more than held his own riding at tracks around the country with the likes of John Longden, Bill Shoemaker, Eddie Arcaro, Ray York, Milo Valenzuela, Bill Boland, Donald Pierce, Jerry Lambert and other top riders of the 1950s and 60s. With 203 wins in 1959, Taniguchi enjoyed his best money-won year, as his mounts earned $934,711, placing him 12th nationally.

A multiple leading rider on Pomona's half mile bullring, Taniguchi, who retired from the saddle in 1968, booted home a total of 1,597 winners from 11,354 mounts.

“My dad loved George and he won a lot of races with him at Pomona,” said trainer Gary Stute in reference to his father, the late Mel Stute. “My dad always said nobody rode that bullring out there better than George. He was fearless and a great judge of pace. I can tell you this, he was a great racing official also. He knew the game and he respected everyone.”

Among his biggest wins, as reported by Steve Andersen in Daily Racing Form, were the $218,940 Arlington Futurity in 1960 aboard Pappa's All, with whom he also won that year's Hollywood Futurity.

Taniguchi also rode Hall of Famer Round Table to victory in the 1957 El Dorado Handicap at Hollywood Park and in 1958, he won Santa Anita's San Felipe Stakes aboard Carrier X. A multiple stakes winner at Pomona, Twenty One Guns and Taniguchi also won the Del Mar Handicap in 1959.

Following his retirement, Taniguchi worked as a racing official at all major California tracks and served as Assistant Racing Secretary at Santa Anita, Hollywood Park and Del Mar.

“George was a good friend and a tremendous official,” said longtime Santa Anita Placing Judge, Bob Moreno. “He was always upbeat and he made the job fun. He was professional at all times and he knew the game thoroughly. A first class man in every respect.”

George Taniguchi is survived by his son Ryan and niece, Donna Johnson.

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