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Canadian History for Kids: Ron Turcotte

May 5, 1973 – New Brunswick jockey Ron Turcotte and Secretariat win the Kentucky Derby.

This Canadian History for Kids exclusive, looks at an amazing Canadian, Ron Turcotte.

On May 5, 1973, Canadian jockey, Ron Turcotte rode Secretariat to win the U.S. Triple Crown in a time of 1:59.4, finishing 31 lengths in front of the rest of the riders, and breaking the record set by Northern Dancer in 1964. Over forty years later, their track record remains.

Ron was born on July 22, 1941, in Drummond, New Brunswick, to a logging family. At 5’1″ and 128 pounds he followed his father into the logging business, where he was put to work with the logging horses. This taught him about horses.

In 1959 at the age of 18, he moved to Toronto and found work at Windfield Farm, first as a hot walker and eventually becoming an apprentice jockey. He rode Northern Dancer for his first victory.

On July 21, 1961 he rode his first horse at Woodbine working for trainer Gord Huntley. He won his first race on April 9, 1962, with a horse by the name of Pheasant Lane at Fort Erie. His biggest Canadian victories at Woodbine in the Canadian International Stakes were in 1964 and 1971.

In 1965 he gained national attention riding Tom Rolfe to win the Preakness. Another Canadian, Meadow Stable Racing trainer, Lucien Laurin, was impressed enough to put Ron Turcotte on two year old Riva Ridge. In 1972 he and Riva Ridge rode on to victory at the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes. That same year, Laurin offered Ron another two year old by the name of Secretariat.

In 1973 Ron and Secretariat made history by winning the 1973 Triple Crown. He was the first jockey in 25 years to win the Triple Crown.

In 1974 he was the first jockey ever to be made a member of the Order of Canada.

In 1978 his career ended tragically. At the beginning of a race at New York’s Belmont Park, his horse, Flag of Leyte Gulf, clipped heels with another horse and fell. Ron hit the ground, and suffered a broken sternum and two broken vertebrae and leaving him a paraplegic.

In 1979 Santa Anita Park awarded him the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, and he was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. He was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1980 and in 1984 he was the first ever recipient of the Avelino Gomez Memorial Award.

Ron Turcotte now lives in Grand Falls, New Brunswick with his wife and four daughters. He is involved with the Permanently Disabled Jockey Fund and often makes appearances at racetracks to raise funds and awareness of the Fund. He has also been involved with the Spinal Cord Injury Society of Canada.

And that’s this week’s Canadian History for Kids, exclusive!

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