McKee's father, David, had been a jockey in the late 1970s and early ’80s. ... John was inspired to become a jockey after seeing his father’s win pictures. He grew up in the Cincinnati area where he was always around horses, learned to ride at an early age, and was a star wrestler in high school … His parents tried to discourage his desire to become a jockey but at 17 he got his start with Thoroughbreds at Poplar Creek Farm near Bethel, Ohio, and learned to be an exercise rider. At his father’s suggestion, McKee became acquainted with legendary jockey’s agent Eddie Campbell, best know for launching the career of Racing Hall of Fame rider Steve Cauthen … Campbell served as his early mentor and first agent when McKee rode his first race on March 15, 2002 at Turfway Park. By the end of the River Downs meeting, he won 114 races to break Cauthen’s 1976 record for an apprentice at the track and led the jockey standings. He then took the fall riding title at Turfway Park in 2002. John was a finalist that year for an Eclipse Award as outstanding apprentice, and became a journeyman rider on June 6, 2003. In 2004, he was leading rider at Oaklawn Park and at Churchill Downs' fall meeting. In 2007, he returned to Turfway to win the Holiday Meet title. John followed Pat Day’s career when he was a youngster and the two later became good friends. “He’s set a lot of examples for me,” McKee said several months prior to Day’s retirement in 2005. “I try to copy him and be the person and the jockey he is now. There’s so much to learn from somebody like him.” John McKee earned his 1,000th win March 30, 2008, at Turfway Park.