By Mint Julep


Jean Cruguet Jockey: One Kentucky Derby Win

1977 seattle slew kentucky derby winner

Join us on an exciting adventure as we follow the incredible journey of Jean Cruguet, a talented jockey who overcame challenges to achieve victory at the prestigious Kentucky Derby. From his tough upbringing in France to winning the United States Triple Crown with Seattle Slew, Cruguet’s legacy as a top rider is evident through his major wins and international successes. Discover how he remains connected to horse racing even after retiring, facing personal obstacles with strength and leaving a lasting impact on his beloved sport.

Early Life and Family Background

Jean Cruguet, who was born on March 8, 1939 in Agen, Lot-et-Garonne, France had a tough start to life. At the age of five, he was placed in an orphanage due to family issues. His father left the family and his mother struggled to cope so Jean ended up being raised by Roman Catholic priests from ages ten to sixteen.

Despite facing these challenges during his early years,

this difficult upbringing helped shape Jean’s strength and determination. This resilience would later prove invaluable as he delved into the world of horse racing with unwavering passion and grit.

Introduction to Racing

Jean Cruguet stumbled into the world of horse racing by chance. At just sixteen, he unexpectedly started a career as a jockey after his grandfather’s friend at a top Thoroughbred race track offered him an opportunity. Despite facing challenges like mandatory military service during the Algerian War, Cruguet never lost his passion for racing. His determination paid off when he returned to flat racing and began building his reputation in France.

Cruguet quickly grabbed attention with his exceptional skills in the saddle, standing out from other jockeys. He improved with each race, establishing himself as a strong jockey who had a natural connection with horses that seemed almost magical. This unique bond between man and animal propelled Cruguet to success on numerous racetracks across Europe before setting his sights on America.

In pursuit of new opportunities, Jean Cruguet decided to leave behind what was familiar and venture into unknown territory across the Atlantic Ocean alongside his wife Denyse. Their partnership both on and off the track played a crucial role in navigating challenges while adapting to American racing culture where competition was fierce but rewards were plentiful for those willing to take risks.

In 1977, luck favored Jean Cruguet when he rode Seattle Slew into history by winning not only the Kentucky Derby but also capturing global hearts with their remarkable performance. The bond between horse and rider went beyond victory; it became engraved in history as one of those rare moments where sportsmanship meets destiny head-on, leaving spectators amazed at witnessing pure excellence unfold right before their eyes.

As Jean Cruguet continued making waves in American horse racing circles by excelling with mounts like Affirmed – another Triple Crown champion- it became clear that his legacy would endure far beyond any single race or title won. His influence on aspiring jockeys served as inspiration—a testament not just to skill but also character—that remains deeply intertwined within this timeless sport we all cherish: where dreams soar atop thundering hooves towards undiscovered glory eagerly sought after by all daring souls chasing it relentlessly.”

The Pros & Cons of Racing Legends


  1. Inspire upcoming generations of jockeys and fans of horse racing
  2. Create a memorable mark in the history of horse racing that will endure
  3. Display outstanding talent and skill within the sport
  4. Offer exciting and unforgettable moments for spectators
  5. Add to the vibrant storytelling tradition of horse racing


  1. Feeling the pressure to keep a perfect record can be really tough
  2. Injuries are always a risk and they affect both the jockey and horse
  3. Tough competition can cause stressful situations
  4. Everyone is watching and talking about you, invading your personal space
  5. The racing demands can wear out both the jockey and horse

Triple Crown Triumph

In 1977, Jean Cruguet embarked on an epic journey to win the United States Triple Crown aboard Seattle Slew. It was a story of determination, skill, and resilience. The adventure began at the Kentucky Derby where he guided Seattle Slew expertly through a crowded field to clinch victory by almost two lengths. With mud flying and hooves pounding against Churchill Downs’ historic track, Cruguet stayed focused amidst the chaos of America’s most famous horse race.

As Preakness Stakes day arrived at Pimlico Race Course, excitement filled the air as people wondered if Seattle Slew could keep up his winning streak. Racing against tough competitors over 1 3/16 miles, Cruguet once again displayed his tactical prowess by positioning Seattle Slew perfectly throughout the event. They triumphantly crossed the finish line under clear skies with style and finesse, showcasing their seamless teamwork for all racing fans to admire.

The final challenge awaited Jean Cruguet and Seattle Slew at Belmont Park – a grueling endurance test known as “The Test of Champions” covering 1 1/2 miles. Among cheering crowds in New York City’s own backyard, Cruguet expertly navigated every turn and straightaway with precision. Their emphatic victory at Belmont Stakes marked them as legends in horse racing history for completing one of its rarest achievements.

Beyond just winning races across America during that unforgettable season in ’77; Jean Cruguet solidified his place among equine greats alongside other elite jockeys who dared dream big when starting out on this challenging path toward greatness. Despite facing obstacles along the way, they pressed forward relentlessly towards glory without looking back or giving up hope – always ready to confront whatever challenges came their way step by step towards ultimate success on an international stage watched by millions worldwide.

Major Stakes Wins

Jean Cruguet had an incredible career marked by winning top races that confirmed his reputation as a true master of horse racing. One of these victories was in the Lawrence Realization Stakes, where he not only showed off his skill but also his smart tactics on the track. In another race, the Metropolitan Handicap, Cruguet once again stepped up and proved he could form a strong bond with every horse he rode.

The Wood Memorial Stakes showcased Jean Cruguet’s consistent success, highlighting his dedication to excellence in each competition. His numerous wins in this prestigious event demonstrated both his talent and ability to perform well under pressure. Events like the Alabama Stakes were where Cruguet truly shined, impressing audiences with his smooth style while riding some of the best horses of that era.

During these major wins at stakes races, Jean Cruguet didn’t just ride horses; he partnered with them gracefully on tracks across the country – building trust and mutual respect for their abilities. Each victory wasn’t just about personal success but also honored the equine athletes who helped him reach glory. It’s through races like these that legends are made – jockeys become heroes whose stories are passed down for generations.

Cruguet’s legacy goes beyond mere wins; it embodies perseverance against challenges and a deep love for horse racing that transcends time. His journey is inspiring not only for young jockeys aiming for greatness but also anyone chasing their dreams despite obstacles. With every stride taken alongside magnificent thoroughbreds, Jean Cruguet left a lasting impact on history – defined by bravery, determination, and an enduring passion for the sport.

Looking back at Jean Cruguet’s significant wins spread across revered racetracks steeped in tradition and glory reveals more than shiny trophies under bright lights – it tells a tale of triumph etched into miles of turf bearing witness to one man achieving greatness alongside loyal steeds seeking immortality together with each thunderous beat of their hearts.

Legendary Jockey’s Impressive Racing Achievements

Attribute Data
Name Jean Cruguet
Occupation Jockey
Born March 8, 1939 (age 85)
Career wins 2,407
Major racing wins United States Triple Crown (1977), Travers Stakes (1968), Lawrence Realization Stakes (1969, 1970, 1975, 1978)
Metropolitan Handicap (1969), Toboggan Handicap (1969), Cowdin Stakes (1970), Laurel Futurity (1970)
Lexington Handicap (1970, 1978, 1983), Manhattan Handicap (1974), Stuyvesant Handicap (1974)
Alabama Stakes (1975, 1983), Hopeful Stakes (1975, 1976), Champagne Stakes (1976), Fashion Stakes (1976)
Great American Stakes (1976), Mother Goose Stakes (1976, 1977), Flamingo Stakes (1977)
Wood Memorial Stakes (1977, 1984), Astoria Stakes (1978), Belmont Futurity Stakes (1978)
Black Helen Handicap (1978, 1989), Washington, D.C. International Stakes (1978, 1993)
Jerome Handicap (1979), Ladies Handicap (1979), Saranac Handicap (1979), Withers Stakes (1979)
Blue Grass Stakes (1983), Tremont Stakes (1983), Coaching Club American Oaks (1984)
Dwyer Stakes (1984), Knickerbocker Handicap (1985, 1986, 1988, 1992), Matron Stakes (1986)
Violet Handicap (1987)
Significant horses Arts and Letters, Hoist The Flag, San San, Bold Reason, Seattle Slew, Mac Diarmida, Tappiano

International Race Wins

Jean Cruguet was an extraordinary jockey who didn’t just excel in America, but also made a name for himself internationally. He won big races like Prix Vermeille and Poule d’Essai des Pouliches in France, proving he was at the top of his game. At the Canadian International Stakes, he showed that he could outshine even the best European competitors.

From racing in beautiful French fields to taking on Canadian tracks, Jean Cruguet left behind a legacy with every win. People all over the world were amazed by how skillfully he guided his horses to victory, earning respect and admiration beyond borders. His ability to adapt to different racing styles and thrive in various settings truly set him apart as a master of horse racing.

Jean Cruguet wasn’t satisfied with just winning locally; he wanted to make waves globally. Through hard work and dedication, he became known worldwide for his finesse on the turf. Whether facing familiar challenges or new ones, his determination never wavered as he chased excellence wherever his career took him.

Even today, people talk about Jean Cruguet’s international triumphs at racecourses around the globe—victories that go beyond language barriers and cultural differences. Fans everywhere marveled at this talented jockey’s skills no matter where they were from—a reminder of how sports can bring people together across continents through shared moments of success.

Significant Horses Ridden

Jean Cruguet’s time in the horse racing world was filled with some of the most amazing racehorses to ever hit the track. He rode alongside greats like Arts and Letters, Hoist The Flag, Seattle Slew (when they won the Triple Crown), Tappiano, and more, showing off his incredible jockey skills. Cruguet had a special talent for connecting with these exceptional animals, leading them to victory in many top races.

One standout partnership Jean Cruguet had was with Arts and Letters during his successful career. This talented colt scored multiple Grade 1 wins under Cruguet’s guidance, proving that they were an unbeatable team on the racetrack. Their teamwork highlighted both Cruguet’s expert riding abilities and Arts and Letters’ natural talent.

Another memorable horse that crossed paths with Jean Cruguet was Hoist The Flag during his time as a jockey. Together, they accomplished impressive feats that left their mark on racing history books. As they raced across tracks all over America, Cruguet skillfully guided Hoist The Flag to victory—a moment showcasing his finesse and precision when it counted most.

Among Jean Cruguet’s many achievements in horse racing stands out Seattle Slew’s legendary Triple Crown win. Leading this iconic chestnut through three tough races at Churchill Downs, Pimlico Race Course, and Belmont Park not only displayed Seattle Slew’s unmatched talent but also highlighted Cruget’s strategic brilliance in handling high-stakes competitions.

Tappiano marked another shining moment for Jean Cruget along his journey through horseracing royalty.With skilled hands and unwavering determination he steered Tappiano through thrilling contests where speed met strategy head-on.Their bond exemplified the timeless connection between jockey

and horse—built on trust,respect,and a steadfast commitment towards excellence every step taken toward greatness.

Legendary Tales of Derby Triumphs

  1. Exciting Stories of Derby Triumph: Jean Cruguet – Winning the Kentucky Derby
  2. In 1977, Jean Cruguet rode Seattle Slew to victory at the Kentucky Derby, capturing the hearts of racing fans worldwide.
  3. Despite being an underdog with odds at 9-2, Cruguet’s excellent riding skills and smart moves helped Seattle Slew clinch a clear win in the famous “Run for the Roses.”
  4. The dynamic duo of Cruguet and Seattle Slew is hailed as one of the most legendary pairs in Kentucky Derby history, highlighting how vital it is for jockeys and horses to have great chemistry.
  5. Securing his first and only win in this prestigious race in 1977, Cruguet firmly established himself in horse racing lore through his remarkable triumph at the Kentucky Derby.
  6. Even today, Jean Cruguet’s victorious ride on Seattle Slew stands out as a powerful example of determination, talent, and the enduring enchantment that surrounds the iconic event known as the Kentucky Derby.

Retirement and Return

Jean Cruguet retired from riding at age 41 to become a trainer with his wife Denyse. Two years later, he made an impressive comeback, winning significant races like the Canadian International Stakes on Hodges Bay in 1989. This return not only highlighted his talent but also confirmed him as one of the sport’s most resilient and skilled jockeys.

Although Cruguet stopped competitive riding activities later on, he remained passionate about horse racing. He found new ways to stay involved in a sport that had been a major part of his life. By appearing at events supporting organizations such as Old Friends Equine, Cruguet continued to promote the well-being of retired racehorses and give back to an industry that meant so much to him.

Retirement usually signals the end for many athletes, but for Jean Cruguet, it was just a move into another phase of his remarkable career journey. His time both as a rider and trainer left a lasting impact on horse racing history, earning admiration from fans worldwide. The way he handled these changes reflects greatly on his character and commitment to equine excellence.

Like all great athletes who retire, saying goodbye is never final; instead, it’s more like “see you later” in another role within their beloved sport world. For Cruguet, this meant embracing new challenges away from riding while still staying connected with what he loved – horses racing down tracks under sunny blue skies or even muddy ones where speed is everything!

In every step taken by Jean Cruguet – whether aboard majestic horses speeding towards victory or sharing tales old and new alongside fellow enthusiasts – lies a legacy woven with determination and love for all things equine that will forever endure in horse racing lore.

Personal Challenges and Loss

Jean Cruguet faced a tough opponent in his personal life, away from the noisy racehorse tracks. He had to take care of his wife Denyse, who had suffered a debilitating stroke. Balancing caregiving duties with his racing career was no easy feat for him. While winning races brought joy and success, dealing with the challenges at home took its toll on him.

Despite these difficulties, Jean showed unwavering dedication to both his family and his passion for horse racing.

The racetrack was where Jean found fame and glory, but it was at home that he truly displayed courage and devotion. Taking care of Denyse during her illness until she passed away in 2010 required immense strength from Jean. Even though fans cheered for him under bright lights at races like the Kentucky Derby, it was when facing life’s toughest challenges head-on that he proved himself a champion.

Beyond the victories on prestigious racecourses lay a story of loss and resilience in Jean Cruguet’s journey. His tale goes beyond trophies; it is one marked by sacrifice, love, and deep sorrow—a narrative woven with personal struggles that tested not only his skills as a jockey but also revealed his true character beneath the riding gear.

By honoring Denyse’s memory through every ride after her passing, Jean left behind an enduring legacy defined by triumphs on horseback tracks as well as adversities conquered off them—an individual whose spirit raced steadfastly through all seasons of life’s turbulent course.

Legacy Beyond Racing

Jean Cruguet left behind a lasting impact that goes beyond the racetracks. Even after retiring, he continued to support causes like Old Friends Equine and planned comebacks, showing his dedication to the sport despite health concerns. This made him not only a top rider but also an influential figure in horse racing.

His commitment to caring for horses showed a softer side of the competitive world of horse racing, earning admiration from fans and fellow riders alike. Jean didn’t just win races; he inspired younger riders with his determination and fair play. Despite facing challenges like injuries, he always found his way back into riding, proving that resilience matters more than just physical strength.

Jean Cruguet’s impact wasn’t limited to major events like the Kentucky Derby; it extended to everyone who saw him ride skillfully. His achievements continue to inspire us today by teaching us that true greatness isn’t just about winning but also about how we carry ourselves on and off the track. With every step he took next to powerful racehorses, Jean embodied grace under pressure — a quality that secures his spot among legendary figures in horse racing history forever.

Tribute Races and Remembrance

During special events honoring racing legends or charitable causes like the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund, there were talks of a comeback for Jean Cruguet. However, he had to back out due to health reasons. Even after retiring decades ago, his contributions are still highly respected within the racing community.

Jean Cruguet was an amazing jockey whose impact on horse racing has lasted through time and different generations. He was known for his exceptional skills in riding, leading famous racehorses to victory with grace and determination. His wins at big races like the Kentucky Derby are still remembered fondly by fans who saw him create history.

His legacy continues to inspire young jockeys worldwide. His love for the sport and dedication to horses set a high standard that few can match up to. Although he retired long ago, his spirit lives on with every winning horse – showing how much influence he had on horse racing history.

Whenever people pay tribute or share memories of past eras in racing, Jean Cruguet’s name always stands out among others. His journey from humble beginnings to becoming a well-known figure in horse racing is truly remarkable and deserves recognition time and time again. Let’s honor those who led the way for future champions by remembering extraordinary individuals like Jean Cruguet – forever celebrated in equestrian excellence.


1. What made Jean Cruguet’s victory at the Kentucky Derby so significant in horse racing history?

Jean Cruguet made history in horse racing when he rode the famous Seattle Slew to win the Triple Crown without a single loss in 1977. This victory highlighted his incredible talent and solidified his position as one of the best in the sport.

2. How did Jean Cruguet’s background and experience shape his success as a jockey?

Jean Cruguet’s family background as a jockey and his early riding experience in Europe gave him the foundation and skills needed to succeed as a jockey. These experiences led to his impressive wins at famous races such as the Kentucky Derby.

3. What challenges did Jean Cruguet face on his path to winning the Kentucky Derby?

Jean Cruguet overcame challenges such as language barriers, doubts from American trainers, and the stress of riding an underdog horse to win the Kentucky Derby.

4. How did Jean Cruguet’s partnership with the legendary horse Seattle Slew impact his career?

Jean Cruguet teamed up with the famous horse Seattle Slew, which boosted his career to new levels. This partnership led to an unforgettable win at the 1977 Kentucky Derby and firmly established his legacy in the world of horse racing.

5. What lasting impact has Jean Cruguet left on the world of horse racing following his triumph at the Kentucky Derby?

Jean Cruguet made a lasting impact on horse racing after he won the Kentucky Derby, thanks to his amazing talent, strong determination, and significant influence on upcoming jockeys. His achievements have secured his place in the history of horse racing forever.

6. Can you share any memorable anecdotes or behind-the-scenes stories from Jean Cruguet’s time as a jockey, particularly during his Kentucky Derby win?

In 1977, when Jean Cruguet rode Seattle Slew to victory in the Kentucky Derby, his cool attitude and intense concentration during the race impressed other jockeys and wowed spectators. His skill and calmness on the track left everyone in awe.