Two time Fla Derby Winning Jockey Thornburg Passes Away

January 1, 2020

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Buck Thornburg, who won the 1980 Florida Derby (G1) and Wood Memorial (G1) with Plugged Nickle and a division of the 1977 Florida Derby with Coined Silver, passed away comfortably with family by his side earlier this week.
Thornburg was 86.

A native of Muncie, Indiana, where he rode his horse to school, Thornburg rode 3,433 winners from 27,258 mounts. He rode his first winner, according to the New York Times, on July 29, 1950 at Scarborough Downs in Maine.

Plugged Nickle came into the Florida Derby in 1980 off victories in the Remsen Stakes (G2) and Laurel Futurity (G1) as a 2-year-old and off a win in Gulfstream’s Hutcheson Stakes. The heavy favorite, Plugged Nickle was guided by Thornburg to an easy victory. The Key To The Mint colt finished seventh in the Kentucky Derby as the second choice, a race won by the filly Genuine Risk.

Thornburg got the mount on Plugged Nickle before the Laurel Futurity.

“It was kind of fate thing that we got Buck on him,” trainer Tommy Kelly said after the Florida Derby. “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.”

Thornburg rode into his late 50s before retiring. He also rode the gray mare Luminaire to victories in the 1983 Matchmaker (G2) and Long Look (G2), Willowy Mood to win the 1986 Barbara Fritchie (G3), and Jolie Dutch to win the 1980 La Prevoyante.

A memorial race will be held in Thornburg’s name in the coming weeks at Gulfstream. He is survived by his two children, Marguerite and Jimmy, and five grandchildren.

@jonathanstettin Well done per usual. A true horseplayer who can articulate nicely #keepitup.

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