Ron Turcotte : Horse Racing Jockey
Ron Turcotte will always be remembered by the horse racing fraternity as a jockey that consistently performed at his best, and was as graceful in accepting his losses, as he did his triumphs. Born as Ron Joseph Morel Turcotte on 22 July 1941 in New Brunswick, Ron grew up as the second oldest child, amongst 11 siblings. His responsibility to his family began at the age of 14, helping his father in cutting lumber. The family horse, named Bess was cared for by Ron, as her health was important to the family, as she was used to drag the cut logs out of the bush.
Ron left home at 18 to seek work as a roofer. Due to strikes, the entire construction industry had come to a halt, and it was during this time, that Ron came across the Kentucky Derby that was showing on TV. His career as a jockey began in same manner as many other jockeys started, by cleaning stables, grooming horses and walking them. While working at Windfields Farm, Turcotte was introduced to George Thompson, who took Ron under his supervision and soon had him taking on fractious horses. It was on one of the horses at Windfields Farm, Northern Dancer, that Ron won his first victory, winning the Preakness Stakes in 1965 on Tom Rolfe. It was not long before Lucien Laurin recruited Turcotte, and in 1972 Ron took the win at the Belmont Stakes and Kentucky Derby, on the back of Riva Ridge.
His success as a jockey was sealed in 1973, when the horse Secretariat secured him a consecutive win at the Kentuckey Derby. This immediately shot Ron to international stardom. Secretariat went on to carry him to victory in the Triple Crown, by winning the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes.
His attitude towards the sport and his career, won him the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, which is the highest honor to be bestowed on a jockey. Ron Turcotte also became the very first member of the Order of Canada, to come from the Thoroughbred Horse Racing arena.
Tragically, this amazing jockey’s career came to an end on 13 July 1978, after a fall from his horse at the Belmont Stakes that left him paralyzed from his waist down. By the end of his career, Ron Turcotte had completed 18 seasons of racing, of which he won 3,032 races, took 2,897 second places and 2,559 third places. In 1979, Ron was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame and would later be inducted into the New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame. The Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame inducted Ron Turcotte in 1980. Ron is an example to all jockeys in the industry, as a man who loved his job, respected the horses he rode and accepted the outcome of each race with the grace of a gentleman.