Ivan Parke was one of five brothers who left an Idaho farm to find success in racing. Parke was riding Quarter Horses at county fairs when he was spotted by Western horseman Bennett Creech, who introduced the young rider to Thoroughbred racing.
Parke’s success as a rider was immediate. He led all North American jockeys in wins as an apprentice with 173 in 1923. The next year, as a journeyman, Parke again topped the standings with 205 winners and also led all riders in purse earnings as a contract rider for H.P. Whitney.
Among Parke’s most notable victories was the inaugural Wood Memorial aboard Backbone in1925. He also rode the winner in the first race ever won at Hialeah in 1923. Parke won the Ashford Oaks, Bowie Handicap, Breeders’ Futurity, Capitol Handicap, Pimlico Cup Handicap, Thanksgiving Handicap and Washington Handicap.
Weight issues forced Parke to retire from the saddle in 1925 at the age of 19, but he returned as a steeplechase rider for Greentree Stable in 1930 and 1931. He finished second in wins among steeplechase jockeys in 1931.
Parke switched to training Thoroughbreds in 1935 and went on to saddle 27 stakes winners. He conditioned Fred Hooper’s Hoop, Jr., winner of the 1945 Kentucky Derby, as well as top sprinter Olympia.
Parke bred Olympia and then sold him to Hooper. When Olympia won the 1949 Wood Memorial, Parke became one of the few individuals to ride, train and breed a winner of a major stakes race.
Along with Hooper, Parke trained for Elizabeth Arden Graham and the Harbor View Farm of Louis Wolfson.
Ivan Parke was inducted into the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame in 1978.
Backbone with Ivan Parke up (Keeneland photo)