Lost And Found Presented By LubriSynHA: Pickleball Replaces Ponies For Former Jockey Lively

Nearly three decades after riding in his final race, John Lively is still competitive, still athletic and still enjoying camaraderie. Instead of the racetrack, he and his wife Pat have found those same elements in playing pickleball, a hybrid of tennis, table tennis, and badminton.

“We play two, three, sometimes four hours a day,” he said. “We feel that it is good for our health to stay active and fit. It is fun and we enjoy meeting other people. It is very big in Florida and Arizona where we used to spend the winters and it is getting bigger all the time.”

The Livelys, married since 1961, now reside in Hot Springs, Ark., where their daughter, Patrice, works for the Arkansas Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association. Their son David has made a career as an assistant to nationally ranked trainers.

Lively’s resume has 3,468 victories, including the 1976 Preakness Stakes aboard Elocutionist, who he guided to a third-place finish in the Kentucky Derby. His trophy collection includes the 1990 George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award that “honors riders whose careers and personal character earn esteem for the individual and the sport of Thoroughbred horse racing.”

“At the time and still today it means an awful lot simply because I was elected by my fellow riders who I was competing against day in and day out,” he said. “It is meaningful that they chose me as a good role model even away from the racetrack.”

A regular at Oaklawn Park in winter, Ak-Sar-Ben in Omaha in summer and other tracks such as Louisiana Downs, Keeneland and Churchill Downs in between, Lively pocketed many riding titles while keeping steady statistics throughout his career. Recognizing that his opportunities were starting to dwindle, he strategically retired with no regrets.

“If I had still been winning two or three races a day, I would not have been ready but I was ready for something different,” he said.

That something different was far removed from Thoroughbred racing.

“We are both from northeast Oklahoma and we went back there and went into the cattle raising business,” he said. “Then an opportunity came along for a poultry raising operation. We did that for about three years along with the cattle. Then we got out of that and retired completely.”

They sold their house and traveled the country in their motor home for 10 years of summer sightseeing and winter sojourns in Arizona or Florida. While in Arizona in 2014, Lively developed health issues that affected his balance. The condition eventually was brought under control with medication and physical therapy but concern about relapses inspired them to cease traveling and move to Rogers, Ark. In 2019 they settled in Hot Springs, where Lively will occasionally go to the Oaklawn Park races to see old friends. He also gets that opportunity in various celebrations such as the inductions of former jockeys Tim Doocy and Ken Shino into the Nebraska Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame earlier this year. (Lively was inducted in 1979.)

A few win pictures decorate their home, most notably his scores on Bold Ego in the 1981 Arkansas Derby, Lets Dont Fight in the 1981 Arlington-Washington Futurity and Billy Jane in the 1980 Apple Blossom Handicap. Other winner’s circle photos are kept out of sight but within easy reach to bring back memories of the workaday Thoroughbreds and people that blended to make traveling racetrackers a community. He especially notes the fraternity amongst the jockeys.

“Each and every one of us knows what we all went through to pursue this and be successful,” he said. “You know how tough it is for yourself, so it forms a bond knowing we all struggled to get there. And we spent so much time together. We were around each other in the mornings getting on horses and then in the jocks’ room all afternoon every day. Some of us were around each other more than we were our own families.”

Family played a key behind-the-scenes role in Lively’s success and life in general thanks to pickleball partner.

“Pat has kept me grounded and been a wonderful support even before I became a jockey,” he said. “It took me a long time to break in as a jockey. I rode in match races at (informal) ‘bush’ tracks but it was years before I got started at a pari-mutuel track. And she was wonderful about raising our kids more or less by herself while I was away riding and she would join me when the kids were out of school. Pat was very supportive the whole time — whatever I wanted to do, whatever ever I wanted to try, she was there.”

The post Lost And Found Presented By LubriSynHA: Pickleball Replaces Ponies For Former Jockey Lively appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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