- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 30, 2014

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The jockey who rode Secretariat to the Triple Crown says he’s skipping the Kentucky Derby on Saturday after being snubbed by the track’s management.

Ron Turcotte, the paralyzed Hall of Fame rider, said Wednesday he couldn’t get a parking spot during his last Derby Day visit to Churchill Downs, and then couldn’t even get into the track to watch last year’s race.

The two-time Derby winner said he was so disgusted by how he was treated that he decided not to attend the 140th Run for the Roses.

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“I just couldn’t believe that they would treat people like that,” he said in a phone interview.

Turcotte was paralyzed in a riding accident in 1978.

On Derby Day last year, Turcotte said, he was forced to park in an off-track neighborhood lot near the track. Adding to the insult, he later was unable to gain entrance into Churchill Downs to watch the Derby, he said.

The year before, he was at Churchill for the filming of a documentary and initially was denied parking assistance by the track, he said. The film crew ended up paying for a handicapped accessible spot in a track parking lot, he said.

“What I can see about the management of Churchill Downs right now, it’s all for money and they’re not at all for horsemen or horses,” Turcotte said. “It don’t make sense anymore. We’re a long way from the golden era that I rode.”

Churchill Downs rushed to quell the Derby-week controversy involving a beloved jockey.

Track spokesman John Asher said any snub was the result of a “communication breakdown” and promised the track will “fix it.”

Churchill has provided a parking pass for Turcotte since 2012, he said.

“There was certainly nothing intentional in any way, any slight toward Ron Turcotte, who is a valued and treasured member of the Kentucky Derby family,” Asher said.

Asher called it a “significant issue” and said track officials would contact Turcotte to assure him that any slights would never happen again.

“We just regret incredibly that he’s upset with the situation,” he said. “We’ve obviously fallen short somewhere. Clearly his feelings have been hurt and clearly he feels like we don’t value him. That’s not the truth. But I might think the same thing if I was in his spot.”

Turcotte won the Derby twice, aboard Riva Ridge in 1972 and Secretariat the following year.

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