2-Time Florida Derby Winner Buck Thornburg Dies at 86

By US Racing Team

Buck Thornburg, a popular jockey who rode more than 3,400 winners over nearly four decades, has died, his family said on Monday.

Thornburg, who won the 1980 Florida Derby (G1) and Wood Memorial (G1) with Plugged Nickle, was 86. He passed away with his family by his side earlier in the week, according to a press release from Gulfstream Park.

According to the New York Times, Thornburg rode his first winner in 1950 at Scarborough Downs in Maine. He retired in 1989. He rode 3,433 winners from 27,258 mounts.

He also won a division of the 1977 Florida Derby with Coined Silver. Thornburg was a native of Muncie, Indiana, and rode into his 50s before retiring.

Plugged Nickle was Thornburg’s biggest winner. As a 2-year-old, the colt won the Remsen (G2) and the Laurel Futurity (G1), and won the Hutcheson Stakes at Gulfstream Park before easily taking the Florida Derby as the heavy favorite. Plugged Nickle finished seventh as the second-choice in the 1980 Kentucky Derby (G1), which was won by the filly Genuine Risk.

“It was kind of fate thing that we got Buck on him,” trainer Tommy Kelly said after that Florida Derby win. “We got to Pimlico late and most of the riders were taken. Buck had rode a lot for me, so we put him up. He rode very well. Him and Nickle get along together.”

A memorial will be held in Thornburg’s honor in the next few weeks at Gulfstream Park. He is survived by two children, Marguerite and Jimmy, and five grandchildren.

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