George "The Iceman" Woolf: T1D and best '30s jockey

He must have been diagnosed very shortly after insulin became available. He started racing in 1928, when he was 18. If he had been diagnosed when I was (11) he would probably have died right away. I read that Eli Lilly started manufacturing insulin in great quantities shortly after it was discovered (1922). So I am guessing he would not have been diagnosed before 1926, when he was 16. Or, possibly, he was diagnosed shortly after he started racing, in 1929 or 1930. For sure, by the time he was a successful jockey, in the mid 1930s, he already was diabetic, as he was racing a lot less than other jockeys.

He became probably the best jockey of the time—but he was T1D. Because of that he couldn’t race a lot, so he really picked his races. Despite having to race a lot less than others he won an incredible percentage of famous races.

As a jockey, he had to always control his weight, sometimes losing 8-10 lbs in 2 days. This must have been incredibly hard for a T1D, especially when he really had no idea of his actual BG. But he got it done though!

He never lost his cool, and was super famous among other jockeys for timing his runs perfectly—hence “The Iceman.” In fact, he often tweaked his coaches by waiting until the last possible second in order to make his move so as to get them to start panicking that he couldn’t win any more. He was totally analytical, and could describe in detail how to manage a horse just from having observed him as a competitor during other races.

He is famous, among other things, for having ridden Seabiscuit to a win against the famous horse War Admiral.

He died of a fall in a race when he was 35, in 1945. But the jockeys in that race think there was no obvious cause for the fall. So I imagine he must have gone too low in the middle of a very physical performance. All of us could go that way too!

If he lived now, I would like to think that he would be a member here: a T1D with no limits!


What an amazing story!


That is a great write up @Kaelan, where did you come across The Iceman’s story. Good stuff.

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Didn’t know this! An amazing person for sure. Thank you for posting a thoughtful tribute to him.


Thanks for sharing! Great story. :sunflower:

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I read somewhere that Seabiscuit’s jockey was T1D, and it got me curious. As I started finding bits and pieces about him I got more and more impressed.

He really tried to live his life with no limits from T1D. And he mostly did. I wish he lived now and got the tech and insulins we get: he would have lived a lot longer. I really look up to him.