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Inspiring Canadians - In Sport and Life

Honoured Member

RON TURCOTTE

Inducted in 1980

Member Details

Date of Birth: July 22, 1941
Place of Birth: Drummond, New Brunswick
Sport: Jockey Racing
Member Category: Athlete

Career Highlights

1972

Kentucky Derby - Riva Ridge, jockey

1973

Triple Crown winner - Secretariat, jockey

1978

Sovereign Award - Man of the Year

Honoured Member RON TURCOTTE
Inspire

Story

Ron Turcotte worked hard to achieve his sporting success, though perhaps his greatest achievement was refusing to let tragedy tarnish the memories of his accomplishments. Born in New Brunswick, Turcotte was one of 12 children and left school at age 14 to work with his father cutting lumber. In 1959, at age 18, he headed to Toronto looking for construction work. What he found, after considerable perseverance, was a life in horse racing. He began at E.P. Taylor's Windfield Farms walking horses and mucking stalls. Eventually a veteran jockey took him under his wing and, as an apprentice jockey, Turcotte rode the great Northern Dancer to his first victory. Turcotte went to work for trainer Gord Huntley and rode his first mount at Woodbine on July 21, 1961, the first of what would be more than 20,000 races over 18 years. In the spring of 1962, Turcotte won his first race aboard a gelding named Pheasant Lane at Fort Erie. By the end of 1962, his 180 victories made him Canada's winningest jockey. His highest profile victories in Canada came at Woodbine in the Canadian International Stakes in 1964 (aboard Will I Rule) and 1971 (One for All). His American breakthrough came in the 1965 Preakness Stakes - the second jewel in American horse racing's Triple Crown - when he rode Tom Rolfe to victory. He was soon working with Quebec-born trainer Lucie Laurin at his Laurel, Maryland stable. It was aboard Laurin's horses that Turcotte made his most enduring mark as a jockey. He rode Upper Case to victory in the 1972 Wood Memorial Stakes, a Kentucky Derby tune-up. But by the time the Derby came around Turcotte was aboard Riva Ridge celebrating in the winner's circle. While Riva Ridge did not far well on the muddy track at the Preakness Stakes, the colt captured the third jewel of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes. Winning three of 1972's highest profile races was only a prelude for 1973. That year, Turcotte was the jockey for Secretariat, a colt that is now remembered as the greatest racehorse of all time. Secretariat, with Turcotte aboard, swept all three races in the Triple Crown, the first horse in 25 years to achieve the feat. He is still the only Kentucky Derby-winner to run the 1.25 miles in under two minutes, and the colt's 31-length win in the Belmont Stakes still stands as the widest margin of victory in horse racing history. Turcotte was only the second Canadian jockey ever to win the Kentucky Derby, the first jockey to ride back-to-back Derby winners since Jimmy Winkfield in 1902, and the only jockey to have ever won five of six consecutive Triple Crown races. Not surprisingly, he was North America's leading stakes-winning jockey in 1972 and 1973. Turcotte's success was recognized in 1974 when he was made a member of the Order of Canada in 1974. In an 18-year career lasting from 1961 to 1978, Turcotte raced 20,281 mounts, winning 3,032 races for a winning percentage of 14.9 percent. He also had 2,897 seconds and 2,559 thirds. Over his career, his mounts amassed $28,606,490 in earnings. Turcotte's career came to a sudden and tragic end on July 13, 1978, when a fall during a race at New York's Belmont Park that resulted in a broken sternum and two broken vertebrae left him paralyzed from the waist down. The horse racing community was quick to remember his remarkable career. The Jockey Club of Canada named him Man of the Year with its 1978 Sovereign Award, while in 1979 Santa Anita Park awarded Turcotte the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award. Turcotte has also been recognized with induction into both the Canadian Horse Racing and the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in the U.S. Since his injury, Turcotte has co-chaired the Spinal Cord Injury Society in Canada with fellow Canada's Sport Hall of Fame inductee Jocelyn Lovell. Despite the untimely end to his career, Turcotte has remained positive about the opportunities and experiences that 18 years aboard some of the world's greatest racehorses afforded him. "Imagine being lucky enough to ride the greatest racehorse, Secretariat, and the greatest stallion, Northern Dancer," he recalled. "Some riders spend their whole career never even seeing horses like that."


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