Turcotte became internationally famous in 1973 when he rode Secretariat to win the first Triple Crown in 25 years, with records for each race, and the phenomenal finish of Secretariat 31 lengths ahead of the field in the Belmont. A photograph of Secretariat winning the race, with Turcotte looking over his shoulder at the pack, far behind, became famous. Turcotte was North America‘s leading stakes-winning jockey in 1972 and 1973. He became the first jockey to win back-to-back Kentucky Derbies since Jimmy Winkfield in 1902 and was the first jockey to ever have won five of six consecutive Triple Crown races (matched in 2015 by Victor Espinoza).
Turcotte’s career ended in 1978 following a tumble from his horse, Flag of Leyte Gulf, at the start of a race at Belmont Park. He suffered injuries that resulted in his being a paraplegic.
In 1984 he became the first ever recipient of the Avelino Gomez Memorial Award given annually to the jockey who is Canadian-born, Canadian-raised, or a regular in the country, who has made significant contributions to the sport.
In 2015, a statue of Secretariat and Turcotte crossing the finish line at the Belmont Stakes was unveiled in Turcotte’s hometown of Grand Falls, New Brunswick.
Born in Drummond, New Brunswick, Turcotte was one of 12 children. He left school at age 14 to work with his father as a lumberjack, then at age 18, headed to Toronto looking for construction work.
Turcotte now lives in his home town of Grand Falls, New Brunswick, Canada, with his wife Gaëtane and their four daughters. He is an advocate for the disabled and helps to raise funds for disability programs.
A well-known survivor of an on-track accident, Turcotte makes appearances at racetracks to raise funds and awareness of the assistance that the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (PDJF) provides to fellow injured riders.
Turcotte was hospitalized on March 9, 2015 following a single-vehicle accident in New Brunswick. The van he was driving flipped after hitting a snowbank. Turcotte and a friend were both injured in the accident. Turcotte sustained fractures to both legs, while his friend suffered minor injuries.