John M. “Red” Pollard

John M. “Red” Pollard

Edmonton, Edmonton Census Division, Alberta, Canada
Death 7 Mar 1981 (aged 71)
Pawtucket, Providence County, Rhode Island, USA
Burial Pawtucket, Providence County, Rhode Island, USA
Plot Section 8, Grave 953
Memorial ID 7481948 · View Source
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Horse Racing Jockey. Born in Canada, his horseracing career lasted thirty years. Allied with Seabiscuit and owner Charles S. Howard, he became the equine's primary rider. Seabiscuit and Pollard became a team and the champion handicap horse that nobody wanted became famous. At age four, he achieved success and fame, at age five named horse of the year and at age seven, the world's leading money winner. After both horse and jockey made a comeback from serious injuries, Red rode Seabiscuit a final time and captured the elusive Santa Anita Handicap in 1940. Pollard was born second to a family in Edmonton, Canada, which would ultimately number seven, his father a brick manufacturer. As a youngster he was athletic and especially loved boxing. However, his main passion was directed to his own little horse with the name "Forest Dawn." He trained the animal to pull his toboggan which came in handy in securing employment delivering groceries in snowbound Edmonton. As a teen, his dream was to be a jockey. With the blessings of his parents at age fifteen, he departed home with the equivalent of only a fourth grade education but with a great passion for reading and especially a love of poetry. His chaperon was a horse owner who promised to direct him in his quest toward a career as a jockey. John found him abusive and the duo soon parted company. On his own, he spent the next couple of years wandering around Canada's racetracks trying to become a jockey even when told that his five feet seven inch height was a determent. He was given mounts, but winning was elusive His travels took him south of the border to Tijuana, Mexico and nearby Agua Cliente (defunct) where he won a stake race. He began to moonlight as a boxer using the name "Cougar" but the moniker "Red" prevailed because of his flame colored hair. A hit in the head by a flying stone while exercising a horse further impacted his jockey quest. Red was now blind in one eye, a secret he would keep for the rest of his life probably the main cause of his many injuries. Years of bad luck and failure took its toll. He was broke, homeless and headed north. At the Detroit Fair Grounds after a chance meeting with Seabiscuit's trainer Tom Smith who was looking for a jockey, his fortunes brightened. Shown the temperamental and unruly horse, Seabiscuit showed a rare gesture of affection. The horse had chosen his own rider. Seabiscuit with Pollard astride won race after race across the country. Injuries kept him from riding in many major races. A substitute rider was needed for the famous two horse match-up against Triple Crown Winner, War Admiral in 1938 as he mended from a broken leg. The highlight of his racing career came in 1940, when he rode Seabiscuit before 78,000 to victory in the race that had twice eluded the horse, the Santa Anita Handicap, with a purse greatest in the world at that time. In the aftermath both rider and horse retired. Pollard couldn't stay away from horse racing for long and soon returned to the racing circuit while injuries continued.. He never achieved much success in the post Seabiscuit years and only raced at minor horse racing parks around the country. In 1950, declining health forced a final retirement to Pawntucket, Rhode Island located near Narragansett Horse Park (defunct) where he kept his hand in horse racing for a time by training horses and jockeys then performing menial duties in the track tack room such as sorting mail. He paid the price for his many injuries and his health declined. His wife cared for him at home until her own medical problems were overwhelming. His children placed him in a nearby nursing home, unable to speak, where he died. Legacy...The mostly forgotten jockey skyrocketed to the forefront of fame and recognition with the release of the book "Seabiscuit: An American Legend," by Laura Hillenbrand which became a best seller. The subsequent movie "Seabiscuit" made by Universal Studio portrayed Pollard as a major player, received Academy Award nominations in every category. His many injuries finally resulted in good fortune during a stay at Boston's Winthrop Hospital. While recovering from injuries, he met his wife, Boston native Agnes Conlon. The marriage would last over forty years producing two children. Agnes would pass away from cancer only two weeks after the death of her husband. His daughter Norah Pollard is a well known New England poet and folk singer. Many of her poems are about her father who carried Pocket Books of Verse around with him his entire life and had committed many by Browning, Emerson and Shakespeare to memory. He was inducted into the Canadian Hall of Fame in 1982.

Bio by: Donald Greyfield

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally Created by: Laura Kallock
  • Added: 24 May 2003
  • Find a Grave Memorial 7481948
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for John M. “Red” Pollard (27 Oct 1909–7 Mar 1981), Find a Grave Memorial no. 7481948, citing Notre Dame Cemetery, Pawtucket, Providence County, Rhode Island, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .