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Perry Compton to Enter Hall of Fame

Perry Compton to Enter Hall of Fame

By M. Scott McMannis

One afternoon about three weeks ago jockey Perry Compton received a phone call in the Hawthorne jocks’ room.  The caller was from the Nebraska Racing Hall of Fame.

“The caller said something about me being inducted into the Hall,” began Compton.  “It caught me so off guard that I simply said, ‘Thank you,’ and hung up.  I had to call back later to ask whether he said that I had simply been nominated, or that I was definitely being inducted.”  On April 20 Compton will be one of 11 inducted into the Hall with famous trainer Jack Van Berg presiding.  “I’m honored,” admitted the modest 53-year-old Compton.

Compton was born and raised in South Dakota, Redfield and Ft. Pierre, to be exact.  “We lived less than two blocks from the fair grounds,” described Compton.  “As kids we would go there on weekends in the spring when they would have Quarter horse and Thoroughbred races.

“We had a pony when we were growing up, but I wasn’t on a Thoroughbred until I was 15,” explained Compton.  “That horse was also 15.  We would tack him up and ride around the arena.  I was hooked.”

Compton took out his jockey license in 1969 at age 17.  “My first win was on Rhythm Peel at long-gone Park Jefferson, a half-mile bullring in South Dakota.” recalled Compton.  “I had 19 mounts that summer before returning to school.”  Compton graduated from Ft. Pierre High School in 1970.

Compton’s father had a gravel and asphalt business and wanted Perry to join the business upon graduation.  But young Compton wasn’t ready for the 9-5 and instead returned to race riding for a couple of years.  He then went to work for his father but that was short lived. 

In 1975 Compton went to Nebraska to visit jockey Randy Meier who was recuperating from a broken leg.  While there, Compton also rode some horses and realized how much he missed riding.  He called his father and said he wouldn’t be coming back to work.

Compton returned to race riding with Meier as his agent.  The team was fourth in the standings at long-gone Ak-Sar-Ben Race Track.

“There was a lot more racing in Nebraska than South Dakota, so I mostly rode the meets there,” explained Compton.  “It was shortly after my successful return to riding that I bought a small farm near Columbus, Nebraska.  It’s basically a training center where we mostly do breaking of young horses.”

Compton’s wife, Dixie, runs the farm.  The couple has two children.  Daughter Jayde is a 21-year-old college junior.  Son Trysten is 10 years old.

Compton states his fondness for his profession in a simple way.  “If there was something else I would rather be doing, I would be doing it.  I have no set plans to retire.  I intend to be a jockey as long as I enjoy it and I’m physically able.

“The only negative to my profession is being away from home,” added Compton.  “But, there is better business for me on the circuit I now have, versus the business I would have with the greatly diminished amount of racing in Nebraska.  Therefore, I’m here at Hawthorne in the spring, then Prairie Meadows until August, and then back to Hawthorne in the fall.”

Compton will take a break next week to have his name called by Jack Van Berg.  When he returns, he will be Hall of Famer Perry Compton and will have the Chicago racing community’s congratulations.


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