Merlin Volzke, a former jockey and California racing official, died peacefully at his home in Sacramento on the night of Feb. 21 night. He was 87.
A native of York, Neb., Volzke rode his first winner in 1942 at Agua Caliente racetrack in Tijuana, Mexico and went on to have a very distinguished career in the saddle. He won back-to-back riding championships (1947-1948) at Longacres in Renton, Wash., and was voted the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award by his peers in 1958, and the Jack Robinson Memorial Award at Bay Meadows in 1975.
He won many major stakes in California and was the jockey who guided the great Native Diver to his first stakes victory in the 1961 El Camino Handicap at Tanforan. Volzke also won the 1970 Hollywood Derby with Hanalei Bay, the 1969 Frank E. Kilroe Mile with Rivet, the 1969 San Miguel Stakes with Mr. Joe F., the 1968 San Gabriel Handicap with Rivet, and the 1954 San Pasqual with Phil D.
Volzke retired from the saddle in 1979 to begin a new career as a racing official. He served as a steward for 26 years, working at Bay Meadows and Los Alamitos before stepping down in 2005.
In 2009 he became the first former rider to receive the Laffit Pincay Jr. Award, which is presented annually to an individual who has served the sport of horse racing with integrity, extraordinary dedication, determination, and distinction.
He is survived by his wife, Catherine Volzke; a daughter, Eileen Miller; a granddaughter and grandson, and three great grandsons. Services will be private.