ARCADIA, Calif. — Ivan Puhich, a jockey’s agent who represented such riders as Kentucky Derby winner Mario Gutierrez, has died. He was 89.
Santa Anita officials said Thursday that Puhich died June 19. No cause was given. He had been retired for several years and living with his daughter in San Diego.
Puhich represented Gutierrez in 2012 when the young rider won the Derby aboard I’ll Have Another. He also represented Tyler Baze, who won the Eclipse Award as the nation’s top apprentice jockey in 2000, Marco Casteneda and William Mahorney.
Puhich enlisted in the Marine Corps following the outbreak of World War II and saw combat in the South Pacific and later in China.
Following the war, he returned to base in San Diego and obtained permission from his commanding officer to take leave so he could attend the 1948 Kentucky Derby.
“I’ll never forget it,” Puhich said in an interview several years ago. “I hitchhiked back there, in uniform and got in free. Calumet (Farm) ran one-two with Citation and Coal Town.”
Born Dec. 22, 1927, in St. Helena, California, Puhich was raised in Renton, Washington. He followed older brothers Nick and Stan to the racetrack as a youngster, selling newspapers, mucking stalls and walking horses after they exercised in the mornings. He later worked on the starting gate at Agua Caliente racetrack in Mexico in the early 1960s.
Nicknamed “Big Ivan,” he stood 6-foot-5 and weighed about 230 pounds. Puhich boxed for Gonzaga University’s team in 1951.
He is survived by daughter Robin Freeman and three grandchildren. He was preceded in death by infant son Ivan Jr. and another son, Steven.