IT WAS OCTOBER 1, 1956, and the race track fraternity had gathered in goodly numbers at Hawthorne, Chicago’s track for thoroughbreds. It was a day to remember.
Johnny Heckmann, a 24-year-old jockey, won the first race. When he followed by winning the second, it seemed that this was the young lad’s lucky day. Heckmann stayed out of the third race, only because he didn’t have a mount.
However, he got back on the track in the fourth race, and again he won. In the fifth, he failed to even as much as place. Nevertheless, three winners out of four seemed pretty good to the rail birds who started buzzing – especially since Heckmann’s first two mounts yielded a daily-double that amounted to getting $141.20 for a $2.00 ticket. And it was a matter of comment that Heckmann’s initial winner was a horse by the name of Brandy’s Last.
An when, in the sixth race, Johnny Heckmann brought home Letmego to win $4,000, the excitement mounted. In the seventh, Johnny led My Preference to the tape, winning another $5,000, and the 12,000 track fans, at first dumfounded, became hysterical. This jockey was really hot – no question about that – and it seemed that almost every horseplayer on the scene flocked to the windows to put his money down on Heckmann.
Heckmann didn’t disappoint them. In the eighth race, in a grueling finish, Johnny drove Royal Monarch over the finish line to win by a neck. Heckmann had now brought in six winners in one afternoon.
In the ninth Johnny was atop Dawney, the favorite. This turned out to be an extremely tight run, yet the incredible man brought Dawney home by a head. Heckmann had made history, winning seven races in one afternoon! But his streak
had not yet burned itself out. On the following day, Johnny won two out of the three races he entered.
Heckmann rode seven winners in one day.