Jerry Lambert, one of California's leading Thoroughbred jockeys through the 1960s and '70s and the the leading Arabian jockey at Los Alamitos Race Course from 1994-1998, passed away Monday morning at his place of employment, Magali Farms in Santa Ynez, Calif., by his daughter, Lacey, who is also employed at the farm. He was 74.
Lambert was the winner of the 1995 Darley Award, given annually to America's top Arabian-bred jockey. He finished his Arabian career at Los Alamitos with 85 vcitories, including many stakes wins aboard the legendary Arabian Magna Terra Smoky. He won 12 Arabian stakes races here. Lambert also trained the winners of 62 Arabian winners at Los Alamitos.
Born in Clyde, Kansas, on Dec. 27, 1940, Lambert was best known as the regular rider of the jet-black Hall of Fame gelding Native Diver, with whom Lambert won three consecutive Hollywood Gold Cups in 1965, '66 and '67. "The Black Horse" as Lambert often referred to him, had a keen temperament and front-running style that was perfectly complemented by Lambert's deft touch. Lambert rode in Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, Nevada, Oregon and Washington before trying Southern California in 1962. M.E. (Buster) Millerick gave him the mount on Native Diver, who went on to earn more than $1 million and retired with an amazing 34 stakes victories.
"He was a great rider," said retired Hall of Fame jockey Donald Pierce. "I rode with him from the time he came to California in 1961 until I retired (early 1984). Anytime he was in a race, you had to deal with him because he didn't make mistakes. He was very quiet, very low key and he'd come and beat you when you'd least expect it. He was a lot like Shoe. He was very quiet to be around and to ride with."
A winner of Santa Anita's George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award in 1971, Lambert, who broke his maiden on a half-mile bullring in Shelby, Montana, in 1958, won 2,535 Thoroughbred races and retired with 42 stakes wins at Santa Anita, 54 at Hollywood Park and 30 stakes triumphs at Del Mar. Lambert was Santa Anita Park's leading winter/spring meet rider in 1967-68 with 77 winners in 72 days of racing, Lambert was also leading rider at the California track's Oak Tree meeting in 1972 with 30 victories. He was also Del Mar's leading jockey in 1967.
He was also a part of one of American racing's all-time greatest match races, which pitted Typecast and Shoemaker against Convenience and Lambert at 1 1/8 miles on June 17, 1972 at Hollywood Park. Typecast was favored, but Lambert, in the opinion of many observers, rode a race for the ages, enabling Convenience to prevail by a head in a $250,000 winner-take-all thriller witnessed by a crowd of 53,575.
"Jerry may've had the best set of hands I've ever seen," said Los Al track announcer, Ed Burgart. "He sat a horse perfect and he never abused his mounts. They ran out of their minds for Jerry, he just had that magic touch.".
Lambert enjoyed a career resurgence in 1987, riding at Bay Meadows and Golden Gate Fields in Northern California for trainers such as Jack Arterburn and Jerry Dutton. His comeback was derailed when he sustained serious injuries in a spill at Pleasanton Fairgrounds Racetrack in July of the same year. After recovering from his injuries, Lambert would begin riding at Los Alamitos in April of 1994.