Ron Turcotte, the Hall of Fame jockey who won the Triple Crown aboard Secretariat, has two broken legs and was ”resting comfortably” in a hospital Tuesday night after the van he was driving hit an icy patch of road and flipped on its side near his home in Grand Falls, New Brunswick.
Turcotte’s spokesman Leonard Lusky said the 73-year-old ”is in good spirits and still has his sense of humor.” He added that Turcotte and his family ”appreciate the well wishes and concern of fans and the Thoroughbred racing community.”
Lusky, who operates the website secretariat.com, said Turcotte asked his doctors to fit him with one blue cast and one white cast – to represent the famed colors of Secretariat’s Meadow Stable.
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Turcotte has been paralyzed from the waist down after a racing spill in 1978. A family friend was a passenger and sustained minor injuries, Lusky said. The single-car accident occurred on the Trans-Canada Highway, police said.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police Const. Yannick Pelletier said the accident occurred about 9:45 a.m. near Four Falls. He said the snow-covered roads were slippery at the time and the accident is under investigation.
”It could have been a lot worse,” Lusky said. ”I think he’s doing well.”
Turcotte is best known as the rider of the great Secretariat, who swept the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes in 1973 to become the first Triple Crown winner since 1948. Turcotte also won the 1972 Derby and Belmont aboard Riva Ridge.
Secretariat’s rise to superstardom was re-created in the movie ”Secretariat,” released in 2010. It told the story of Penny Chenery taking over Meadow Stable and hiring trainer Lucien Laurin, who then called on Turcotte to ride the horse known as ”Big Red.”
Turcotte won more than 3,000 races during his career, which ended in 1978 when the jockey tumbled from his horse at the start of a race at Belmont Park.
In the `73 Belmont, Turcotte was aboard for perhaps the greatest ride – and greatest sentence – in racing history.
As Secretariat widened his lead with every stride and with the crowd on its feet cheering, track announcer Chic Anderson proclaimed: ”He is moving like a tremendous machine.” Big Red won by a record 31 lengths and in record time.
Turcotte has appeared at many Triple Crown events in recent years, including last year when California Chrome won the Derby and Preakness but came up short in the Belmont.
After the movie was released, Turcotte talked about his ride through the Triple Crown.
”The greatest race was the Preakness,” he told the AP in a 2010 interview. ”I could have won by 15 lengths if I’d wanted to.”
In the Belmont, ”he had such a nice, rhythmic stride. He was just covering ground. He was doing it so easy. When he (Anderson) called me 20 lengths in front, I could see the crowd and hear the roar.”