Gary with his daughter Robin
Born in Kansas, Gary Birzer is a second-generation jockey whose father was a jockey for 8 years before becoming a trainer. Gary’s brother Alex is also a rider. Gary began his dream of being a jockey in 1997 at the age of 21 at Fonner Park in Nebraska. His most memorable win is a stakes victory aboard Yanney Star trained by family friend, Kenny Hancock. Gary later moved his tack to Mountaineer Park in West Virginia and on July 20, 2004 was involved in an on-track accident that resulted in paralysis. Residing now in Ohio, Gary spends time with his two children and continues with his physical therapy. He’s optimistic that with continuing medical advances, he may some day walk again but for now he pushes his body with physical therapy.
Stacy visiting Arlington Park Race Track
Stacy Burton became a jockey in 1999, after leaving a teaching and coaching profession to realize her lifelong dream. In 2000 at Prescott Downs in Prescott, Arizona, her dream came crashing down. While riding in the 5th race on August 26, Burton’s horse was involved in a head on collision with another horse. Stacy was catapulted into the air. With catastrophic head injuries, Burton was rushed to the Barrow Neurological Institute where physicians had little hope for Stacy’s survival. In a coma for 23 days, Burton regained consciousness and began her long road of recuperation. At one point her prognosis was to be wheelchair-bound with minimal communication skills. Today, with the support of Jan Hortyk, family and friends, Stacy is able to walk and talk but still requires full-time assistance
Tony spending time with family and friends hunting.
Anthony (Tony) Dlugopolski’s successful riding career spanned more than 25 years and he recorded 3,453 career wins until his catastrophic accident in 2001 at Mountaineer Racetrack and Casino. While Tony had suffered many injuries in his career, nothing prepared him for this life-altering injury which left him a quadriplegic, confined to a wheelchair.
The support of Tony’s family including his wife, children and grandchildren as well as the assistance of the PDJF has been critical in his rehabilitation efforts And, despite Tony’s paralysis, he is determined to continue to do the things he loves including the sport of hunting using custom-made mounts on his wheelchair.
Dennis, enjoying a day at the races.
Dennis Keehan was only 21 years old in 1964 when his life changed forever. Riding at Sportsman’s Park in Cicero, Illinois, his mount Red Steamer clipped heels with another horse causing a chain reaction with four jockeys going down. The accident resulted in Dennis being left a paraplegic, the most severely injured of the four jockeys. A professional jockey for just nine short months Dennis amassed 81 wins. After his accident he was faced with a future he had never envisioned. He and his family’s life was drastically changed but with the assistance of the PDJF, Dennis has been helped with necessary medical care and living expenses.
Ron visiting the gravesite of Secretariat.
Ron Turcotte was born in New Brunswick, Canada and spent his youth working with horses on his family’s farm. He took that experience and turned it into a 17-year career as a jockey at North America’s most prestigious racetracks. His many accomplishments include winning back-to-back Kentucky Derbys; a pair of Preakness and Belmont victories and countless other stakes wins and riding titles.
Perhaps Ron’s proudest moments as a rider are guiding the legendary Secretariat to the first Triple Crown in 25 years, being voted the prestigious George Woolf Memorial Award by his fellow riders and his election into the Hall of Fame in 1979.
Ron was involved in a riding accident at Belmont Park in 1978 leaving him paralyzed. As probably the most well-known victim of an on-track accident, Ron makes use of that notoriety by making appearances at racetracks to raise funds and awareness of the vital assistance the PDJF provides to fellow injured riders.