Cocky Johnson dies ran Pimlico stables

Longtime track figure, 63, known as 'Mr. Preakness'

September 06, 1998|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

Aquilla "Cocky" Johnson, stable manager at Pimlico Race Course from 1981 until his retirement in 1997, died Aug. 31 in Baltimore after a brief illness. He was 63.

Cocky, as he was fondly called by his track family, worked around horses most of his life and was a well-known figure on the Pimlico backstretch.

He earned high marks over the years from racing's top horsemen for his professional attention to accommodating the needs of stakes and Preakness trainers, as well as Pimlico-based horsemen.

"We believe a satisfied customer is going to tell other people about us," Johnson said in an interview three years ago. "The thing that makes me feel good is when these people come back to the stakes barn again and again."

Johnson was affectionately known as "Mr. Preakness", and specialized in shippers' needs, a tricky assignment when stalls were too few or trainers needed material not on the grounds. His clients included a who's who of national racing figures, including D. Wayne Lukas, Charlie Whittingham, Buddy Raines, the late Laz Barrera and Jack Van Berg.

"I knew him a real long time, from the point when he was a groom in the '50s and '60s," said trainer Dick Small, who operates one of the major stables at Pimlico.

"He kind of belonged to another generation, a disappearing one now. Cocky was just wonderful to all the Preakness horsemen, indispensable, really, because he knew all the things they needed.

"He had dominion over the people who are stalled there as the stable manager. But I never had any problems with him."

Another longtime habitue of Pimlico's stable area, Richard Delp, said he attended the viewing.

"Cocky always treated me good and we got along," Delp said. "Naturally, he had his ups and downs, like everybody else, but I liked him.

"His son rubbed horses for me at one time and he was around the track most of his life. He catered to those big-time trainers pretty good, but that was all right."

Johnson walked hots, worked at Bowie Race Course as a security guard and also oversaw the stabling area at Delaware Park. His health had been failing in recent years and he underwent triple-bypass surgery twice.

The funeral was held Friday at the AME Mount Cavalry Church on Eudowood Lane in Baltimore. He is survived by five children, six grandchildren and two sisters.

'Weather' breezes

Weather Vane forged ahead immediately from the outside post and cruised to an 11-length victory in the $50,000 Alma North Handicap at Timonium yesterday.

"She was just playing around, looking at all the merry-go-rounds [at the state fair]," said winning jockey Mario Pino. "It was easy for her. I was just hoping I wouldn't do anything wrong."

The win pushed Weather Vane's lifetime earnings to nearly $650,000, an impressive total considering her modest breeding.

Giveaways

Timonium is giving away $100 gift certificates to four patrons each day during a drawing. The certificates are for restaurants in the vicinity of the track.

Pub Date: 9/06/98

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