Ron Turcotte, Jockey

When Ron Turcotte was named Canadian Horse Racing’s Man-of-the-Year in 1978, Mr. George Frostad, Chairman of the Sovereign Award Committee, eulogized one of the world’s all-time Great jockeys. "From the time he first started riding in Ontario as an apprentice, Ron has exemplified the will to win of a true Thoroughbred.

He had done his job with class, and has accepted his victories and defeats with grace. He was consistently among the top money-winning jockeys in the world during his riding career, and, his stirring rides on Big Red, Secretariat, captured the imagination of racing fans and non-fans in 1973".

Tragically, Ron Turcotte’s riding career came to an abrupt end on July 13, 1978, when he was injured in a spill at Belmont Park. Ron was paralyzed from the waist down. The spirit and drive of Ron Turcotte is a model for future riders.

Turcotte’s rapport with horses began in the rugged bush near his childhood home in Drummond, New Brunswick. Ron, second oldest of 12 children, left school at 14 to help his father cut lumber.Retour ligne automatique
Ron’s responsibility was the family mare, Bess, who would drag logs through the bush. At age 18 Ron headed to Toronto to work as a roofer. Construction at that time, though, was halted because of a strike. While whiling away time watching TV in a rooming house Ron viewed with interest the running of The Kentucky Derby.

It sparked an idea. The following day Turcotte was knocking at the security house door at Woodbine, and he soon was inside where he made contact with Joe Thomas, Vice-President of Windfields Farm. His career began as they all do, walking horses, mucking stalls etc. A former rider, George Thompson, took Turcotte under his wing and it wasn’t long before the youngster from New Brunswick has handling the most fractious young horses. After leaving Windfields, Turcotte went to work for trainer Gord Huntley.

In the spring of 1962, at Fort Erie, Turcotte won his first race on a temperamental gelding named Pheasant Lane. Turcotte left Ontario after two full seasons. He eventually made his way, via Maryland, to New York and sat in the saddle on the backs of some of the most famous Thoroughbreds of our time. Ron rode 3,032 winners in his 18 seasons. He had 2,897 seconds and 2,559 thirds. His mounts earned $28,606,490. Two times Turcotte won the Kentucky Derby, with Riva Ridge and Secretariat.

He won the Triple Crown on Secretariat in 1973 (Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont), becoming only the second Canadian jockey to do so, Smokey Saunders was first, with Omaha. Ron Turcotte was named French Canadian Athlete-of-the-Year in 1973 and was the first person from Thoroughbred racing ever to be appointed a member of the Order of Canada.

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