Retired jockey Jimmy Nichols, who had a special knack with 2-year-olds, died the morning of Feb. 27 at a Fort Worth, Texas, hospital from breathing problems associated with kidney problems. He would have been 75 in March.
Nichols rode such top runners as champions High Voltage and Susan's Girl, plus the brilliant Graustark. He was aboard Graustark as a 2-year-old in 1965 and came away a huge fan.
"I've ridden some mighty fine 2-year-olds in the last 15 or 20 years, but I can honestly say this might be the best," Nichols said after the colt's easy win at Arlington Park. "I just sat there and let him do all the work."
In 1979, a 52-year-old Nichols hung up his tack, but that didn't mean he quit riding. He exercised Risen Star, who became the first offspring of Secretariat to win a U.S. classic. Risen Star won the 1988 Preakness (gr. I) and Belmont (gr. I) Stakes. Nichols had helped owner/trainer Louie Roussel III pick out Risen Star at auction.
During Risen Star's 3-year-old season, Nichols turned down an offer to become a steward at Ellis Park. Roussel had told Nichols that he would forfeit a lifetime breeding right if he quit to accept the position. Nichols stayed on.
Nichols worked as a steward in Louisiana, West Virginia, and Texas. From 1991-96, he served in that role at Trinity Meadows. Nichols suffered from kidney failure in 1995. He worked at Lone Star Park in the jockeys' room the last several years.
Nichols leaves Veronica, his wife of 55 years.