Woodbine announces death of Hall of Fame jockey Hugo Dittfach at age of 85

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TORONTO — Hall of Fame jockey Hugo Dittfach has died. He was 85.

Woodbine Entertainment announced Dittfach's death Tuesday.

Dittfach won over 4,000 races as a jockey and in 1983 was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame. Dittfach was born in 1936 in Ostrisland, Germany, and spent three years in a Russian concentration camp during the Second World War.

It was while working at a restaurant in Calgary that Dittfach received a suggestion from a patron that he pursue horse racing due to his physical stature. He launched his career in 1956 and was a leading rider in Western Canada before relocating to Ontario.

In 1961, Dittfach rode 20-1 longshot Blue Light to victory in the Queen's Plate, edging pre-race favourite Just Don't Shove and rider Johnny Longden, who was the world’s leading race-winning jockey at the time, in one of the closest finishes in race history.

Dittfach remained a fixture and leading rider at Woodbine, Greenwood and Fort Erie for many years, winning numerous stakes, including the Prince of Wales a record five times. He retired as a jockey in 1989 to become a trainer.

"So many individuals in our racing industry, including myself, are lucky to have cherished memories of Hugo," Jim Lawson, the CEO of Woodbine Entertainment, said in a statement. "Hugo was a hard-working, earnest man, that gave his all every time he got on the back of a horse.

"Hugo rode regularly for Jim Dandy Stable and I fondly remember his ride on Ruthie’s Run to win the Princess Elizabeth Stakes in 1974. A true gentleman, Hugo made an incredible contribution to our sport in Ontario and will be missed by all."

Dittfach won the Sovereign Award as Canada's top jockey in 1975 and received the Avelino Gomez Memorial Award in 1991 for his contributions to the sport. Dittfach was also inducted into the Halton Hills Sports Museum Hall of Fame in 2017.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 2, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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