(By Marcush Hersh, Daily Racing Form)

Bill Hartack, a mid-century sports icon during his heyday as a jockey, and one of only two five-time Kentucky Derby winners, died Monday at 74.

Hartack died of natural causes due to heart disease, according to Dr. Corinne Stern of the Webb County medical examiner’s office in Laredo, Texas. Stern said she had pronounced Hartack dead at about 9:30 Monday evening. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Hartack’s body was found in a cabin at a camp near the town of Freer, in southern Texas, where he has journeyed the last several winters to hunt, according to the trainer Mike Stidham. The hunting camp is the property of the Thoroughbred owner Greg Goodman, a friend and client of Stidham’s, whose father, George, was Hartack’s agent at the end of the jockey’s career.

Hartack hadn’t been seen since sometime Sunday, and security personnel were called Monday evening to check on Hartack, at which time his body was discovered.

Hartack would have been 75 on Dec. 9. He has remained active in racing as a steward, and recently finished working the race meet at Louisiana Downs.

Hartack won 4,272 races during his U.S. career, which ended in 1974. He won with nearly 20 percent of his mounts. From 1978 to 1980 he rode in Hong Kong, retiring for good in 1981.

Hartack and Eddie Arcaro are the only two riders with five Kentucky Derby wins. Hartack’s first Derby came with Iron Liege in 1957, his last with Majestic Prince in 1969. In between, he won North America’s biggest horse race with Venetian Way (1960), Decidedly (1962), and the great stallion Northern Dancer (1964). Hartack also won the Preakness three times, and the Belmont once. His Derby total might have numbered six had he not gotten injured and lost the mount on Tim Tam, the Derby winner in 1958.

“He was the greatest Derby rider in history, won five of 12,” said Joe Hirsch, a retired Daily Racing Form executive columnist, and a friend of Hartack’s. “He could make a judgment that was just genius, and make it quickly. He moved before most of the fellows had decided what to do.”

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