Jockey Ron Turcotte, a winner of more than 3,000 races whose career was cut short in 1978 when he was paralyzed from the waist down in a racing accident at Belmont Park, is among the honorees at the 16th annual Sports Legends Awards to benefit spinal cord research.
Turcotte, who was the first jockey in 70 years to win back-to-back Kentucky Derby (gr. I) runnings with Riva Ridge and Secretariat in 1972-73, is being recognized along with announcer Vin Scully, baseball's Dave Winfield, soccer's Cobi Jones and swimming's Diana Nyad Feb. 24 at the Omni Hotel in Los Angeles.
The awards ceremony, open to the public, is presented by the Paralysis Project of America. The event will be emceed by veteran Los Angeles sportscaster Tom Kelly, in his fifth decade as the voice of the University of Southern California athletics.
The 65-year-old Turcotte, now wheelchair-bound, returned to his native New Brunswick, Canada, after the accident to continue raising his four daughters. He now lives with his wife Gaetane.
After winning his first race in 1962, Turcotte was Canada's top jockey in 1962 and 1963, then went on to race in the U.S. In 1965 he won the Preakness (gr. I) aboard Tom Rolfe. In 1972 he rode Riva Ridge to victories in the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes (gr. I). By winning the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes with Secretariat in 1973, he won five of six Triple Crown races over the two-year period.
The festivities kick off with a reception, autographs and silent auction beginning at 5:45 p.m., followed by dinner at 7 p.m. and the awards presentation at 8 p.m. The ceremony features video biographies and sports highlights, compiled and produced by Raintree Productions, and then built into an acclaimed multimedia program by John Leverence, senior vice president of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. This program is designed to bring back the memories of the outstanding
careers recorded by each Sports Legend honoree.
Scully, the Hall of Fame voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers for 58 years, will be presented with the annual John R. Wooden Lifetime Achievement Award.
Sports Legends Awards honorees are selected annually for their contributions to sports by the Paralysis Project of America's Business and Sports Councils. Headed by chairman Bob Seagren, the Sports Council includes former Sports Legends Award winners Pepper Davis, Jim Hill, Rafer Johnson, Jim Knaub, Jack Kramer, Ann Meyers-Drysdale, Joe Morgan, Don Newcombe, Bill Sharman, Gary Stevens, Al Unser, Rogie Vachon, Jamaal Wilkes and John R. Wooden.