Ron Franklin (jockey)

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Ron Franklin
Occupation Jockey
Born (1959-12-20)December 20, 1959
Baltimore, Maryland
Died March 8, 2018(2018-03-08) (aged 58)
Baltimore, Maryland
Career wins 1,403
Major racing wins
Kentucky Derby (1979), Preakness Stakes (1979), Florida Derby (1979), Blue Grass Stakes (1979)
Racing awards
Eclipse Award for Outstanding Apprentice Jockey (1978)
Significant horses
Spectacular Bid

Ronnie Franklin (December 20, 1959 – March 8, 2018) was a jockey in American Thoroughbred horse racing who, at age 19, rode Spectacular Bid to wins at the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes.[1][2]

Early life[edit]

Franklin was born in Baltimore, Maryland[1] and grew up in nearby Dundalk, he was the youngest of six children.[3] He attended Patapsco High School where he briefly played on the school's baseball team.[3] Because he was so small in stature (Franklin was 4 foot 7 inches or 1.40 m tall and weighed 72 pounds),[4] the coach would insert him into the line-up, hoping to draw a base on balls.[1][not in citation given]

Franklin dropped out of high school when he was 16 years old.[2] He set off for the local racetrack in 1976, looking for work as a jockey where he met trainer Bud Delp.[2] Delp hired him as a stablehand where he learned the business from the ground up.[1] He cleaned stables, walked horses and did other odd jobs around the track.[1][not in citation given] Franklin was later sent to a training center in Middleburg, Virginia; there, he learned to ride yearlings.[2]


On February 4, 1978, Franklin, riding in his first race aboard Pioneer Patty, won at Bowie Race Track in Maryland.[5] His second career win was aboard Deficit.[3] In his first year of racing, Franklin won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Apprentice Jockey.[5]

In 1979, at the age of 19, Franklin mounted Spectacular Bid and won the Kentucky Derby, the colt's 11th consecutive win.[6] Two weeks later he followed up the Derby win with a win in the Preakness Stakes and became the favorite to win racing's Triple Crown at Belmont Park.[1]

Two weeks later Franklin and Spectacular Bid were off to the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park in New York.[6] A win there would catapult both to thoroughbred racing's highest honor: the Triple Crown; and would see the third Triple Crown winner in succession.[6] Spectacular Bid, however, finished third behind Coastal and Golden Act.[7] In the mile-and-a-half race Spectacular Bid moved rather early and tired noticeably in the stretch. Franklin was blamed for the loss, most notably by the horse's trainer, Bud Delp.[7] Nine days later, Franklin was arrested for possession of cocaine outside of Disneyland in Anaheim, California.[7]

Franklin rode 1,403 winning mounts in 9,242 starts from 1978 to 1992, and won purses of more than $14 million, but he never rode Spectacular Bid again, being replaced by Hall of Fame Rider Bill Shoemaker.[8]

Franklin talked of returning as a jockey, though he was repeatedly denied licenses from state commissions because of his drug problems.[3] He continued riding horses in California until he was diagnosed with lung cancer.[3] In 2017, Franklin moved to Baltimore to receive further cancer treatment and retired from riding horses.[3]


Franklin died of lung cancer in Baltimore on March 8, 2018, at the age of 58.[3]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Bossert, Jerry (September 2, 2011). "Ronnie Franklin, who missed out on Triple Crown with Spectacular Bid in '79, is pulling for I'll Have Another". New York Daily News. Retrieved June 8, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d Klingaman, Mike (May 2, 2004). "Franklin Recalls Ride of His Life". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved June 8, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "Jockey Ronnie Franklin, who won 1979 Derby and Preakness aboard Spectacular Bid, dies at 58". The Baltimore Sun. March 9, 2018. Retrieved March 9, 2018. 
  4. ^ Boyle, Robert (May 19, 1979). "Scorecard". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved June 8, 2013. [dead link]
  5. ^ a b "Eclipse Awards, 1971-present". Thoroughbred Racing Association. Retrieved June 8, 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c Leggett, William (May 14, 1979). "A New Bid For A Triple". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved June 8, 2013. 
  7. ^ a b c Harasta, Cathy (January 9, 2007). "For veteran jockey Ron Franklin, a spectacular bid for a second chance". USA Today. Retrieved June 9, 2013. 
  8. ^ Blagden, Nellie (July 9, 1979). "A Drug Bust, a Paternity Suit—Troubles Come in Battalions for Jockey Ronnie Franklin". People. Retrieved June 9, 2013. 

External links[edit]