Retired jockey John “Johnny” Wirchainski, who exercised major winners Sir Gaylord and Cicada, died July 4 of congestive problems in Dublin, Ohio. The Yonkers, N.Y., native was 87.
Wirchainski initially worked for trainers W. G. Williams and Harry Schilleck and later for Hall of Fame trainer Eddie Neloy. During his career, he rode at Santa Anita, Tropical Park, Garden State, Hialeah, Gulfstream, Scarborough Downs, Atlantic City, Belmont, Aqueduct, and Saratoga.
In 1958-59, Wirchainski worked as an exercise rider at William du Pont Jr.’s Foxcatcher Farm near Wilmington, Del. He later worked as an exercise rider at Christopher Chenery’s Meadow Stable in Virginia, riding such stars as Sir Gaylord and Cicada. In 1962, he went to Churchill Downs to exercise Sir Gaylord prior to the Kentucky Derby but the horse sustained an injury before the race and was retired.
After 1964, Wirchainski worked in the mutual departments at Gulfstream Park Hialeah, Calder, and Tropical Park for 25 years.
In 2000, Wirchainski was honored with a special race named for him at Saratoga to mark 50 years since riding his first winner.
Wirchainski’s survivors include his wife, Evelyn, and a son, John.