Billy Turner

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Billy Turner
BillTurnerNY.jpg
Full nameWilliam H. Turner Jr.
OccupationTrainer
Born (1940-02-29) February 29, 1940 (age 81)
Rochester, New York,
United States
Career wins532+ (ongoing)
Major racing wins
Remsen Stakes (1967)
Nashua Stakes (1975, 1993)
Champagne Stakes (1976)
Flamingo Stakes (1977)
Wood Memorial Stakes (1977)
Jerome Handicap (1979)
Withers Stakes (1979, 1984)
Carter Handicap (1980)
Metropolitan Handicap (1980)
Damon Runyon Stakes (1981)
Lexington Stakes (1983)
Shirley Jones Handicap (1996)
Bold Ruler Handicap (1989, 1997)
Delaware Handicap (1995)
Fall Highweight Handicap (1998)
Maryland Million Sprint Handicap (1996)
Garden City Breeder's Cup (2000)
Sands Point Stakes (2000)
Athenia Handicap (2004)
Beaugay Handicap (2005)

American Classic Race wins:
Kentucky Derby (1977)
Preakness Stakes (1977)
Belmont Stakes (1977)
United States Triple Crown (1977)

Significant horses
Czaravich, Finery, Gaviola, Salerno,
Seattle Slew, Play On, Punch Line

William H. Turner Jr. (born February 29, 1940) is an American Thoroughbred flat racing trainer who is best known for winning the United States Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing in 1977 with Seattle Slew, and is the world's oldest living Triple Crown-winning trainer.

Turner maintains a public training stable and bloodstock consulting services, operating mainly in New York, Florida and the Mid-Atlantic region. In recent years[when?] he has been based in Belmont Park and Saratoga Racetrack in New York, and Palm Meadows Thoroughbred Training Center in Florida, training horses that compete on the New York Racing Association circuit, at Gulfstream Park, and other racing venues along the U.S. East coast.

Early life and career[edit]

Born in Rochester, New York, Turner grew up riding and fox hunting in Pennsylvania's horse country and began his career with racehorses as a steeplechase jockey while still a teenager. Working under Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame steeplechase trainer Burley Cocks, Turner rode first over jumps from 1958 to 1963 and then, when his 6'2" height made race-riding unrealistic, continued as an assistant-trainer until 1966. At the age of 26, Turner went into business on his own as a trainer and found early success with the Thoroughbred racehorse Salerno, who won the Remsen Stakes in 1967.

Seattle Slew[edit]

In 1975, Karen and Mickey Taylor gave their $17,500 colt to Billy Turner for training. Turner started the colt, named Seattle Slew, at Mrs. Henry Obre's Andor Farm in Monkton, Maryland. At 2, Seattle Slew moved to the racetrack and, under Turner, went undefeated in his two-year-old racing season and was honored with the 1976 Eclipse Award. The following year, Turner became only the ninth trainer in American racing history to win the Triple Crown when he saddled Seattle Slew to victories in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes, and Slew was voted U.S. Horse of the Year. He was for many years the only horse to win the Triple Crown while still undefeated (though he lost some subsequent races); this feat was emulated in 2018 by Justify, who retired with no losses. After the Triple Crown, a disagreement occurred between Turner, who wanted to give Slew a rest, and the owners, who wanted to run him in the Swaps Stakes in California. This conflict led to a parting of ways, and Seattle Slew was sent to trainer Doug Peterson.

Later career[edit]

Two years after Slew's historic run, Turner trained a chestnut colt, Czaravich, who won or showed in all of his 13 starts. His campaign included wins in the Carter Handicap (1979), Withers Stakes (1979), Jerome Handicap (1979) and Metropolitan Handicap (1980).

In 1984, Turner conditioned Welcome Farm's colt Play On, who won that year's Withers Stakes and finished second to Gate Dancer in the Preakness.

From 1995 to 1999, Turner trained Althea Richard's Punch Line, a horse he referred to as "the second best horse I ever trained." A winner of 21 races from ages 2 to 8, Punch Line was named the Virginia's Horse of the Year, champion sprinter 1997, 1998 and at the age of 8, won the Fall Highweight Handicap carrying 136 pounds. Today, Punch is retired in Virginia, and Turner still pays him regular visits.

Since 1976, Turner's horses have won more than $15 million in purses. Turner took in $780,000 of that purse money in 1977.

Personal life[edit]

Billy Turner is married to former jockey and exercise rider Patricia Rich 'Patti' Turner and has two children from previous marriages. Since 1992, Patti has acted as Assistant Trainer for Turner Racing. She has been involved in racing since 1969 and over the years has worked as an exercise rider and jockey with horses that include Mr. Prospector, Talc, Sea Hero and Punch Line. Patti is also a skilled consultant on bloodlines and breeding and, along with Turner, regularly travels to Keenland, Saratoga, Timonium etc. to assess bloodstock and advise clients in their purchases.

References[edit]