Alan Cuthbertson, three-time leading jockey at Assiniboia Downs, died Monday afternoon in the Cottage Hospice in Vancouver following a lengthy battle with cancer. His son Bradley was at his side.
The 63-year-old won the titles in 2006, '07 and '08, with 81, 106 and 107 wins respectively. In his last year at the Downs Cuthbertson finished third with 45 wins. He broke his maiden in 1964 at Woodbine. Cuthbertson was estimated to have won close to 2,500 races. Statistics date back only to 1974.
"He was probably the most talented rider I have ever seen," said Assiniboia Downs director of operations Darren Dunn, who has also called more than 15,000 races at the Winnipeg race track. "I couldn't have imagined someone winning three rider titles here while in his 60s."
Last summer, while exercising a young horse, Cuthbertson was thrown, and then stepped on. A few days later he still wasn't feeling right, so he went to see his doctor, who sent him right away to Acute Medicine at Vancouver General Hospital, where he was diagnosed with cancer.
Always a realist, Cuthbertson told Vancouver Province writer and good friend Tom Wolski during a visit, "I have had a lot of comebacks, but if I can beat this one, which I know is serious, then I know I made the granddaddy of all comebacks."
Unfortunately it wasn't to be.
"I've known Alan pretty good for the last 10 years," commented Downs trainer Jared Brown. "We actually became good friends, and I can tell you he was as genuine as a person could be. He lived his life to the fullest, and that's kind of how it played out at the end."
Cuthbertson always drew respect from his peers. When Washington Hall of Fame jockey Gary Baze arrived at the track in the spring of 2009, the buzz was that he was going to challenge Cuthbertson for his riding title.
"You know, Alan is a great rider," said Baze. "This is his course, and so what I have to do is be on a better horse, and hope I get lucky. He doesn't ride like an old man. He looks good on a horse and he rides a smart race. This is his track, and right now he has a definite edge."
"I would have loved to have seen him in his prime racing at tracks like Belmont, Santa Anita and Churchill Downs," said Dunn. "He could have ridden with the best of them."