Jun 9, 2009


I read the other day that jockey Alan Cuthbertson had ridden a couple of winners at Assiniboia Downs in Winnipeg, Manitoba. For a man who lived in the fast lane for six decades that is quite a feat.

Alan and I crossed paths first in 1970 when he moved his tack to Exhibition Park in Vancouver (now Hastings Park). I was editor/columnist of the local edition of Daily Racing Form.
Doug Winship was my handicapper and he was also Cuthbertson’s agent. Alan was an immediate success and Doug supplied useful information which helped us cash the odd bet. Alan was a natural athlete who sat a horse as good as any rider I had seen. He also had a wild streak and would have looked like Errol Flynn if you put a mustache on him. Unschooled he may have been but Alan’s native intelligence was apparent. He studied yoga in an effort to reduce weight and gain flexibility. We even produced a feature on Canadian Broadcasting Corporation about the yoga jockey.

When he was on his best behavior you could not beat him. Other times, he tended to self destruct his career. The following tale will illustrate the point.

Doug had lined up a mount for a Futurity in Edmonton on a horse called Brandy Magic, trained by Anderson. Cy felt he had the horse to beat so Doug and I loaded up on Brandy Magic (at $200 or about a week’s pay in that era).

We got the word that Brandy Magic had won at 12-l odds and danced a victory jig in the Ex Park press box. When we failed to hear from Cuthy for a couple of days we got concerned. Finally he showed up and explained that he did not get the bets down.
You see, he was taken into custody at the Edmonton airport by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police the night before the race, charged with possession of a controlled substance. He needed the bankroll to make bail so he could ride the race the next day.

Alan’s career waxed and waned over the years. He’d fade away for a year or more sometimes, then show up in Western Canada long enough to show us that he still had a vestige of his former skill. His scrapes with the law prevented him from riding south of the border.

Alberta was famed for the jockeys developed on the bullrings of Edmonton, Calgary Medicine Hat and numerous country fairs, much like the Cajun country of Louisiana.
Riders like Don McBeth, Johnny Longden, Ron Hansen, Don Seymour, Herbie Ollive, 
Gary Boulanger came up the hard way on that demanding circuit.

But ask any veteran who saw him ride and he’ll tell you Alan Cuthbertson was the best jockey you never heard of.