When David Gall climbed off his 7,394th winning mount in September, 1999, it marked the end of a career, largely unheralded except for a couple of occasions, but one that placed him among the elite of his profession. Only three Hall of Fame greats – Bill Shoemaker, Laffit Pincay and Pat Day had won more races than the 57-year-old farmer’s son from Rose Valley, Sask. Performing at Fairmount Park in Southern Illinois near St. Louis, Gall had 10 mounts in the 11-racecard on his final night, which brought his number of mounts to an astounding 41,709 in a 43-year career. His mounts earned $25 million, a figure well below the earnings of many jockeys with fewer victories to their name – a clear indication of the lesser company in which Gall plied his trade.
Twice, however, he was leading rider in North America in terms of number of victories – 479 in 1979 and 376 in 1981. Despite his amazing record, Gall was not a household name in his native land or anywhere, really, outside Collinsville and the 190 acres of Fairmount. He was king of the $3,000 claimers, baron of the B-circuit.
Gall began his career in Canada on the Prairie circuit – Regina, Saskatoon, Calgary, Winnipeg, Edmonton, and later Vancouver and down to Bay Meadows and Tanforan in Northern California and Arizona before making his home at Fairmount, where he became a legend. He once won eight races on a 10-race card at Cahokia Downs in south Illinois, a record he shares with six other riders, and several times won seven races on a program. “Anyone can get lucky now and then and win a bunch of races on a single racing card, but to me, it’s consistency that counts. That’s why I am proudest of my national championships,” said Gall when he was inducted into Canada’s Hall of Fame.
Lack of recognition by the main-core press never bothered Gall, who began riding at age 15 in Edmonton. He recognized his limitations early in his career. He never rode in a Breeders’ Cup or a Triple Crown race; never sought to move up to big-league tracks with their pressures, politicking and cliques. He didn’t like glad-handing and schmoozing for mounts. “In my mid 30s I realized I wasn’t going to make it big. I never joined the rat race because I don’t like rat races. I love horse races”.
In his last career race he won on a mount called Sturley. But the name of the horse he piloted to a show place finish in the 10th race that night summed up better the way he felt at the end of his career. It was called Truly Happy.
David Gall passed away August 1, 2021 of natural causes in State College, Pennsylvania at age 79.
(Updated August 3, 2021)