Retired Jockey John Kanis Dies

A leading rider for many years, John Kanis died February 7.

Q-Racing Journal

John Kanis, right, with son Jeremiah Jon and granddaughter Danielle.

John Kanis, a top jockey in the 1960s and early ’70s, died February 7 at his home in Yorba Linda, California. Kanis, 73, had suffered for years from stomach ailments likely stemming from his years of “flipping” to make weight to ride.

Born in the Netherlands, Kanis came to the United States with his parents and siblings when he was 13 years old and became known as “The Dutchman” as he rose in the ranks of riders. At 16, Kanis began galloping horses for Rex Ellsworth, paid his dues riding at bush tracks in Texas such as at Columbus and Rainbow Downs in Tomball, and then moved up to the pari-mutuel circuit at Centennial in Colorado, Latonia in Kentucky and Beulah Park in Ohio.

He established himself as a top rider on the West Coast, where he rode for trainers such as Chuck Taliaferro and Jerry Fisher, who conditioned horses for Vessels Stallion Farm. Kanis rode the winners of 232 races at Los Alamitos, where he won aboard such stars as champions Duplicate Copy, Top Rockette and Triple Lady; and stakes winners such as Moore Go and many others. Kanis was ranked among the nation’s leading Quarter Horse riders for several years before he quit riding in 1974.

He then worked as a valet at Los Alamitos for many years, handling the tack of champion jockeys such as Kip Didericksen and Cody Jensen before retiring in 2008.

Kanis is survived by his wife, Rose Marie, of Yorba Linda; and sister Tina Roberts of Chino, California. He formerly was married to well-known equine artist Ginny Harding, and is also survived by their son Jeremiah Jon Kanis-Harding of Brimmerton, Washington, and Jeremiah's children, Brandon, 20, and Danielle, 16.

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