NYRA mourns the passing of John Hennegan
Apr 13, 2024
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NYRA mourns the passing of John Hennegan

by NYRA Press Ofiice

The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) mourns the passing of its longtime racing official John Hennegan, who passed away Thursday, April 11th after a battle with aggressive glioblastoma - a form of brain cancer. He died nine days shy of his 85th birthday.

Hennegan began his NYRA career in 1965. He worked as a NYRA racing official for nearly 40 years, spanning five decades. His positions included patrol judge, assistant clerk of scales, clerk of scales and placing judge during that time.

“I first met John Hennegan in 1977, when I started my career in racing with the National Steeplechase Association. We were based at Belmont Park and had a close relationship with all of the NYRA officials," said Bill Gallo, Director of Racing for the National Steeplechase Association. "John was one that was always helpful and willing to guide young professionals that wanted to learn about the game. I was lucky to get to know him and spend valuable time with him, especially when he volunteered to work for the NSA as a steward, and joined us on the road at several of our race meets.”

As a teenager growing up in Baltimore, MD, he served as a ballboy for the NBA's Baltimore Bullets and operated the clubhouse elevator at Pimlico Race Course. He graduated from Calvert Hall College High School and attended LaSalle College in Philadelphia where he briefly played basketball.

His affiliation with horse racing began with his father who served as secretary for the now defunct American Trainers Association in Maryland. Legendary horseman Alfred Vanderbilt helped young John get connected with NYRA to launch his long career as a racing official. Once in New York, he was fortunate to be mentored by the late horseman and television personality Frank Wright.

His roles as a racing official made him witness to countless historic races. He served as a patrol judge for the legendary Ruffian-Foolish Pleasure match race. He also worked in various capacities at all three Triple Crown clinching Belmont Stakes of the 1970's.

As exciting as these moments were, it was everyday racetrack life that he loved best. He cherished his relationships with his wonderful coworkers and friends in his racing universe.

"John Hennegan was a hard worker, friend to all horsemen and a loyal NYRA employee for nearly 40 years. He was everybody's friend, including mine. He will be greatly missed," said Hall of Fame jockey Angel Cordero, Jr.

In addition to horse racing, he loved to travel to beach destinations such as the British and US Virgin Islands, Ocean City, MD, Hutchinson Island, FL and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The wonderful people they met in all of these places have become lifelong family friends.

He is survived by his devoted wife Nancy, his daughter Brooke, sons Brad and John as well as four grandchildren.

No immediate plans have been made for a memorial but something will be held to honor his life in the coming months.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests any memorial contributions be made to the New York Race Track Chaplaincy in John's name at https://www.flipcause.com/secure/cause_pdetails/MT....

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