Jockeys & Horses in the 70's; 4 Special Relationships

August 9th, 2016

Horses, including thoroughbreds, are much smarter animals than many believe them to be. The thoroughbred is not only a smart equine, but it's also an emotional equine. Stories abound about horse whisperers throughout history who could get horses to do things that horses normally wouldn't do. Great jockeys are also great horse whisperers. See below for 4 horse whisperer relationships with 4 of the greatest thoroughbreds from the 1970's.

Ron Turcotte and Secretariat Like most of the jockeys on this list, Turcotte wasn't a one horse rider. In addition to riding Secretariat, Turcotte road Arts and Letters, Damascus, Riva Ridge and the great Northern Dancer.

Even with such a sterling resume, Turcotte will forever be known as the rider of Secretariat. Turcotte and Big Red had a special relationship that was on full display in Secretariat's 31 length Belmont Stakes victory. Turcotte's ability to get Secretariat to relax while on the lead in that race was paramount to the historic win. Turcotte was the first jockey to win 5 consecutive Triple Crown races. He's a key supporter of the Permanently Disabled Jockeys' Fund.

Jean Cruguet and Seattle Slew Cruguet grew up in an orphanage after his father abandoned him and his mother couldn't cope with raising him alone. Cruguet became one of the greatest jockeys to ever live. He was sensational aboard Seattle Slew. Slew is one of the greatest racehorses to of all time, but he didn't exactly run his competition off of their feet. He needed a jockey like Cruguet to manage him in races. Cruguet's ride aboard Slew in the Kentucky Derby, where they ran a half in :45.4, is a great example of this. Cruguet managed to handle Slew in such a way that the horse relaxed while holding back and moving up. Cruguet became the sole caregiver for his wife Denyse in 2003 after she suffered a stroke. She died in 2010. This shows what an amazing person Jean Cruguet is.   

Steve Cauthen and Affirmed This has to be considered one of the most important jockey-horse relationships in thoroughbred racing history. Cauthen was a jockey prodigy before riding Affirmed in 1978. He was the nation's leading rider in 1977 with 487 wins. As good as Cauthen was, being aboard Affirmed worked like magic. For some reason, Affirmed and Cauthen just knew how to work together in order to beat Alydar. If you watch all 3 Triple Crown races from 1978, the thing that sticks out is how Cauthen uses the whip perfectly while Affirmed responds to the whip perfectly. Without Cauthen, there would have been no Affirmed. Without Affirmed, Cauthen definitely wouldn't have won the Triple Crown. Cauthen had trouble losing weight. Instead of doing something destructive to his body, he decided to go ride in Europe where he won the Ascot Gold Cup twice, the Epsom Derby 3 times and the Irish Derby once during a stunning, hall of fame career.  

Ron Franklin and Spectacular Bid Trainer Buddy Delp blamed Franklin's ride aboard Spectacular Bid in the Belmont Stakes for losing the Triple Crown. Maybe, Delp's right. Maybe, Fanklin did make an early move aboard Spectacular Bid. But the move that he made aboard Bid in the Belmont is eerily similar to the move he made aboard Bid in the Preakness Stakes. To me, Franklin made what he thought was a winning move aboard Spectacular Bid. I can't really fault him for that. Franklin won 1,403 races from 9,242 mounts during his career. He won the Bluegrass, the Florida Derby, the Preakness and the Kentucky Derby in 1979 aboard Spectacular Bid. Franklin was truly a great horse whisperer for Spectacular Bid. Too bad his ride aboard Bid in the Belmont prevented Buddy Delp from every putting him aboard the Derby and Preakness winner again.