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Secretariat, with Jockey Ron Turcotte up, crosses the finish line to win the Kentucky Derby in Louisville, May 5, 1973. Secretariat became the public's horse, and his popularity has stood the test of time.

In this iconic photo, Secretariat, with jockey Ron Turcotte, crosses the finish line to win the Kentucky Derby in Louisville, May 5, 1973.

Staff/AP

A triple crown-winning jockey whose career came to a tragic end, Turcotte, 74, has seen the highest highs and lowest lows

I grew up two or three miles from Grand Falls, New Brunswick. I was one of 14 kids.

I was one of five brothers who became jockeys. There was me, Noel, Rudy, Roger and Yves – he was the youngest.

My dad was a very good horseman, and taught us to ride. For five years, I worked with him in the woods. I'd get up at four in the morning and feed the horses and learn everything you had to do.

Winning the Triple Crown [in 1973] made my career as a jockey. It is the pinnacle of racing, and when I won it, there were only nine people who had ever done it. That is really something.

I couldn't see American Pharoah losing. I didn't think any other horse could beat him in the Belmont [last June]. He went hard in his last two workouts, and was ready to go a mile and a half.

Big Brown had no chance.

I think it helped racing, and I was glad to see another Triple Crown winner come along.

My wife [Gaetane] and I were cheering at home. I had received an invitation and planned on being there, but I was in two casts, had two broken femurs and one broken tibia, and it just impossible for me to go.

I was on the highway on my way to a doctor's appointment at 9:30 in the morning on March 9 when I hit black ice. I completely lost control and my van turned and hit a snow bank, and then we rolled.

It was a beautiful day. When I hit the patch of ice, I couldn't believe it. I didn't know it was there. I was pinned in my van, twisted and couldn't move.

It was disappointing, but that's part of life.

Secretariat was an exceptional horse. In each of the Triple Crown races, he set records I don't think will ever be broken. He was the greatest horse that ever lived.

The big edge I had heading into the Belmont was that I had ridden him through most of his works. You get to know horses, and you know where they are at all the time.

I was very confident before the Belmont. At the time, I said that if I didn't win the trip around the track, I'd hang up my tack. I knew exactly how good he was.

After my accident [at Belmont Park in 1978 that left him a paraplegic], I learned to live life one day at a time and make the most of it.

Secretariat and jockey Ron Turcotte pose in the winner's circle after winning the 1973 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., on May 5, 1973. Secretariat won the 99th Run for the Roses in a record 1:59 2/5, becoming the first horse to complete the 1 1/4-mile course for the Kentucky Derby in less than two minutes.

Secretariat and jockey Ron Turcotte pose in the winner’s circle after winning the 1973 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., on May 5, 1973. Secretariat won the 99th Run for the Roses in a record 1:59 2/5, becoming the first horse to complete the 1 1/4-mile course for the Kentucky Derby in less than two minutes.

AP

Sometimes I prayed to God to get better, and if that wasn't going to happen, I asked for the strength to cope. And then I worked hard.

I built myself a home and tried to raise cattle, but it was kind of hard in a wheelchair. I tried to run a nightclub for four years, and that was kind of hard, too. But I never stopped trying to provide for my family.

If I can help somebody along the way, I will. I want to be role model. I try to help raise money for disabled jockeys.

I am proud of the way my career turned out.

Either you are a professional, or you are not. I think I played it very professional.

I left my work at the track. I never brought my bad days home.

I learned to never hold a grudge. If you do that, it just brings you down.

I was never one to jump up and down. I would wave to the crowd and acknowledge their applause, but I took everything in stride.

This past summer, I was inducted into the Maritime Sports Hall of Fame [with fellow New Brunswickers Willie O'Ree and the late boxer Yvon Durelle]. It is my ninth Hall of Fame.

On July 19, a monument was dedicated to me on Broadway Boulevard in Grand Falls. There is a life-sized monument of me and Secretariat crossing the wire in the Belmont, and there is a wall that shows a lot of my achievements. It is really something to see.

Things are going good with my family. My wife and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary this summer, and I have four daughters and five grandchildren. I'm very proud.

– As told to Marty Klinkenberg