Ralph Theroux Sr., a colorful, longtime jockey agent who was known at virtually every track from New York to California, died Sept. 15. He would have been 87 Sept. 30.
Theroux was born in Rhode Island but moved with his family to South Ozone Park, N.Y., when he was eight. He had a hard family life, and he eventually was drawn to the racetrack in 1933.
“I was small in those days and I wanted to ride,” Theroux said several years ago in a Daily Racing Form interview. “I went to (Hall of Fame trainer) Hirsch Jacobs and asked if he needed a man. He said, 'Sure, where is he?' But he hired me and I went to work for one of the best. He ran a tough barn. If you talked back to him, you were gone. There was no smoking or drinking allowed and he was big on making sure your shoes were shined and you looked good.”
Theroux would later work for another Hall of Fame trainer, Ben Jones, before serving 33 months in the United States Army in Europe and Northern Africa during World War II.
He began his career as an agent for Joel Norbert in New Orleans, and in ensuing years, represented jockeys Don Meade, Don Pierce, Jack Leonard, Bill Boland, Pat Day, and Walter Blum.
In 1959, acting as stable manager for trainer Slim Roles, Theroux entered Terrang in the Santa Anita Handicap. Roles had been ailing and left the barn without entering the horse. With literally minutes to spare, Theroux entered the horse in the Big ‘Cap, and Terrang went on to carry Boland to an upset win over Hillsdale.
“I don’t know if Ralph just jumped in or if Slim pulled him into the winner's circle for the post-race photograph,” Boland said. “Later, they called him over and said that was the first and last time any agent would be allowed in a photo. So as far as I know, he is the only jock’s agent to have his picture taken in Santa Anita’s winner's circle.”
Theroux was a regular at Aqueduct, Belmont Park, and Saratoga until his health began to fail in 1999.
He is survived by his wife, Florence; a son, Ralph Jr., a former jockey agent who works for the New York Racing Association’s racing department as a clerk and placing and patrol judge; and two daughters.