Johnny Sellers was born in Los Angeles on July 31, 1937, but was raised in Oklahoma, where he gained riding experience with Quarter Horses. He began his association with Thoroughbreds in 1953 under the tutelage of Hall of Fame trainer Harry Trotsek.
Sellers made his official riding debut in 1955 at Sunshine Park in Florida and went on to enjoy a standout career in the irons. He won 2,797 races and had purse earnings of $17,948,436.
Sellers gained attention during 1960 when he won four $100,000 races that were televised nationally. In 1961, he was the regular rider for Hall of Famer Carry Back and finished the year as the national leader with 328 victories. Sellers also finished second nationally that year in earnings with $2.14 million. With Carry Back, Sellers won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, Florida Derby, Flamingo, Everglades, Garden State, Jerome, Whitney Handicap, and Trenton Handicap.
In 1965, Sellers won the Belmont Stakes and Travers Stakes aboard Hail to All, Also during the 1960s, Sellers scored victories over champions such as Kelso and Roman Brother, while winning the Widener, Suburban, and Brooklyn, aboard Pia Star.
Sellers won the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award in 1969. Sellers eventually moved to California, where he won the San Juan Capistrano and Sunset handicaps on Petrone, the Hollywood Oaks aboard champion Straight Deal, the Hollywood Derby on Tumble Wind, the Strub Stakes on Warheim, another Sunset on champion Typecast, and the Del Mar Invitational, Oak Tree Invitational, and San Luis Obispo on Daryl’s Joy.
Other notable wins by Sellers include the Alabama Stakes, Arlington Classic, Carter Handicap, Saratoga Special, Test Stakes, Diana Handicap, Kentucky Oaks, Blue Grass Stakes, and Canadian International Stakes.
Following his retirement in 1977, Sellers embarked on a new career as a bloodstock agent.
Johnny Sellers was inducted into the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame in 2007.