Jockey Clifton Loses Battle with Cancer

Top rider from Penn National fought disease for two years before succumbing June 29.

Jockey Thomas Clifton, 43, died June 29 after a nearly two-year battle with cancer, officials at Penn National Race Course confirmed.

Clifton, a native of St. Louis, Mo., had been a mainstay of the Penn National riding colony for more than two decades and was leading rider at the track on multiple occasions. 

He took ill during the winter of 2010-2011, but never gave up aspirations of beating his illness and returning to riding.

One of the crowning achievements of his career came at Penn National on July 15, 2010, when he joined an exclusive club by posting his 2,000th career win aboard Dinny Dinosaur.

Clifton was also well-known for his advocacy for other riders in the jockeys' colony at Penn National. He was one of the jockeys involved in a 2010 boycott by riders that resulted in owner Michael Gill being banned from entering horses at the Pennsylvania track.

Clifton rode 12,425 starters with 2,016 victories, 1,796 seconds, and 1,653 thirds through a career that began in 1994. His mounts recorded purse earnings of $19,864,479. In 2010, his last active year, he rode 517 starters with a 51-57-69 record and earnings of $1,203,114.