Bolting Holme, a 2-year-old colt with a promising career, earned a small place in racing trivia at Aqueduct Nov. 17. He was the last horse ever ridden by Bill Passmore.
Passmore, one of the most prolific jockeys in Maryland history, didn't realize his riding career was over until he returned from New York. That's when he was notified of his acceptance as a Maryland racing official. So he has swapped silks and saddle for suit and tie and will replace steward J. Fred Colwill when Bowie Race Course opens Monday.
Laurel Race Course paid tribute to Passmore, 51, yesterday, the final day of its fall meeting, showing film clips from his 36-year riding career that included 29,490 mounts, 3,533 victories and $22.9 million in purses.
"Being a jockey takes its toll on your family," said Passmore, who has been married 28 years and has seven children. "It's 12 hours a day, six, seven days a week. We never had any real home life. When the kids had ball games, I couldn't make them. I felt bad, but there wasn't anything I could do; I had to make a living. My wife suffered and my children suffered. Maybe they resent me for it, I don't know. You can't really take a vacation. When you come back, you won't have the mounts. The hot jockey will have them."
Known as "the fox" for his shrewd riding, Passmore didn't have to scrounge for mounts the past decade. Since 1975, he rode for perennial leading trainer King Leatherbury.
"I knew it was a great job," Passmore said.
"King was very easy to ride for. He knew I read the paper before a race. He let me use my own judgment pretty much all the time."
Leatherbury said, "With his experience, what could I tell him about a race that he didn't know? He hasn't lost a bit. In the paddock, he's as enthusiastic as one of the kids. At 51 years old, he's still better than 90 percent of the jockeys out there. He's another Ronald Reagan."
Passmore's retirement has Leatherbury employing a methodical, time-consuming search for a regular rider.
"This isn't the first time I've lost a great rider, but it's always happened a lot sooner in his career," Leatherbury said. "Right now, I'm going to use a variety of riders, and we'll just let something evolve from that . . .
"With Bill, you couldn't go wrong."
Jockey Alberto Delgado agreed. "I used to hate to go against him in the stretch," he said of Passmore. "I don't know what he did, but it was like his horse always had something left when you hooked up with him."
Passmore relinquished his secrets as eagerly as those stretch leads.
"Let's just say it's one of those things that comes with experience," he said. "I was never a big whip rider. I always thought you could whip a horse right out of the money."
"He wasn't an overly physical rider," said Leatherbury. "He didn't hit the horse real hard, but he was a beautiful hand rider. Nobody could keep a speed horse going as far as he could."
Passmore has modified his riding style as racing has transformed. In 1948, when he won his debut at age 15 astride Minneapolis, film equipment was new and unsophisticated. The sport was more dangerous.
"Racing is a lot cleaner now," he said. "Used to be, everyone would take a shot at you, because they could. You really had to take care of yourself. Nowadays, you just have to make sure you stay in your path."
Beginning Monday, Passmore will enforce that principle.