Graded-Stakes Winning Jockey Doug Thomas Dead At 78

The Meadowlands played host to many of Doug Thomas's wins | courtesy of R.G.C. Thomas and Family

Douglas Thomas, a graded-stakes winning jockey who raced primarily at Monmouth Park in the 1970's and 80's, died Mar. 9 at the age of 78, according to an obituary written by his son Robert Thomas and sent by the Thoroughbred Breeders' Association of New Jersey.

An earner of over $21 million over the course of his career, the Canadian native retired in 1997 having made over 18,000 starts with a win total in excess of 2,000 races. Many of his winner's circle photos took place at tracks across New Jersey and New York. In particular, a stretch from 1977-1981 saw him amass 690 wins from 5,514 starts and garner nearly $7 million in earnings as one of the top riders at tracks like the Meadowlands.

According to his obituary, Thomas was named the leading apprentice at Aqueduct in 1968, a year in which he collected almost $1 million in earnings.

The Meadowlands, a track where Thomas regularly rode | Sarah Andrew

While riding at Monmouth, Thomas lost a total of three years in the irons because of injuries, which included a broken back–twice–a broken shoulder, a broken wrist, a hyperextended thumb resulting in a fracture, and a multi-fractured orbital bone that caused permanent vision damage, according to his family.

As Thomas told the TDN, “I would say that he is the Evil Knievel of racing because he always kept getting up, no matter what.”

His most serious injury occurred in 1990, when he was struck in the head by a trailing horse after being unseated. A year later, Thomas was back in the saddle. “He was, perhaps, one of the physically and mentally toughest jockeys of all time,” his son wrote of his father.

Thomas is survived by his wife, Jane Johnson; his son, Robert; and a former wife, MaryAnn.

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