The man they call “Hank”

Sep 10, 2014 | ASD History

Merry's Jay wins 1976 Manitoba Derby. Ken Hendricks up.

Merry’s Jay wins Manitoba Derby. August 2, 1976. Ken Hendricks up for trainer Clayton Gray.

by Bob

No one has ridden more winners at Assiniboia Downs than the man they call “Hank”.

Ken Hendricks sits atop the Downs’ leader board with 1,666 trips to the Winner’s Circle. A quick scan of those who follow shows that only two of the top 20 riders are still active (Rohan Singh and Jerry Pruitt), and they are several hundred wins behind.

With Singh not riding at the Downs these days and Pruitt nearing the end of his career, neither are a serious threat to overtake Hendricks.

They say that records are made to be broken, but it looks like this record is set in stone!

Ken’s story is an interesting one. He rode for 40 years in a total of five decades and participated in 34 meets at the Downs. His career was highlighted by record after record and milestone after milestone. He was the best “go to” guy in the business, a real “money rider!”

But before we go any further let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room. There was another side to this fiercely competitive jock. Ken wasn’t everybody’s cup of tea, so to speak. Now don’t get me wrong, Ken had his friends, but he was never one to worry about winning a popularity contest.

If you’re looking for more on that part of his life, you’re going to be disappointed, because today we remember his accomplishments. The list that follows is by no means complete, but it gives you an idea of the footprints he left on our track:

Windsor Moon wins Gold Cup. August 7, 1971. Ken Hendricks up.

Windsor Moon wins Gold Cup. August 7, 1971. Ken Hendricks up.

  • Downs’ leading rider in 1974 and 1975
  • Winner of two Manitoba Derbys – 1976 Merry’s Jay, 1995 Langara Island
  • Winner of seven Gold Cups – 1971 Windsor Moon, 1974 Turn to Rule, 1978 Merry’s Jay, 1982 Black is Beautiful, 1986 Proven Reserve, 1988 Uene, 2004 Deputy Country
  • Winner of six R. James Speers Memorial Stakes – 1973 Tempe Senga, 1985 Chilcoton Blaze, 1989 Kapalua, 1993 Northern Debut, 1997 Copa De Ore, 2004 Deputy Country
  • Rode no fewer than eleven horses that either set or equaled track records at the Downs
  • First jockey at the Downs to ride 100 winners in a single season (1975) – win #100 came on August 23, 1975 aboard Magandsir
  • On July 12, 1975 he won the first five races on the card – Merry’s Jay, Paul G. W., World Travel, Forest Grove and Scott Tyler
  • On July 1, 1986 he paraded Major Enterprise in front of the grandstand when the Major was officially retired
Gladiatore II sets new track record at Assiniboia Downs. July 7, 1972. Ken Hendricks up.

Gladiatore II sets new track record at Assiniboia Downs. July 7, 1972. Ken Hendricks up.

Kenneth Dwain Hendricks was born to parents Jock and Queenie Hendricks on June 22, 1949 in Prince George, B.C.

His father bought a farm close to the Alberta/B.C. border and through relatives he hooked up with noted Alberta horseman Don Gilykson, who had a notion that young Ken had potential as a rider.

Ken’s first win on recognized track came in the fall of 1968 at Lethbridge when he rode Second Fleet for Keith Trenholm. In the summer of 1969 Ken followed Gilykson to the Downs and on June 14, just a few days shy of his 20th birthday, he successfully piloted his only two mounts on the card to the Winner’s Circle.

Ken got his first hat trick on July 28, 1971 ( Royal D, Terri M. and Shaena). He rode Royal D ($37.70) for veteran Wendell Mustard, for whom he rode many horses over the years. Wendell liked the young Hendricks!

In 1989, the late great trainer, Don Gray said that he never had a client of his ask for Hendricks to ride their horse, but that didn’t matter to Don, he just talked them into it. Don knew that when it came to crunch time, when the real money was on the line, Ken was the best.

Over the course of his lengthy career Ken was fortunate enough to have escaped any sort of major injury. Equibase statistics have him with 2,385 wins, 2,078 seconds and 1,982 thirds for earnings of slightly less than $10,000,000 in purse money from just over 15,000 starts.

Uene wins 1988 Gold Cup. Ken Hendricks up for trainer Jack Robertson.

Uene wins 1988 Gold Cup. Sept. 4, 1998. Ken Hendricks up for trainer Jack Robertson.

Ken’s last win at the Downs came on September 22, 2007 aboard Accidental Magic. He returned in 2008 but didn’t hit the board in 15 starts. Father time had called, and with no special fanfare or day to mark the occasion, he quietly drifted into the B.C. sunset, where he lives today.

Now 65, Ken is officially a senior, and the record of 1,666 wins at our Downs is as secure as it gets.

For the man they call Hank!