Meeting the French-Canadian world famous jockey Ron Turcotte in Waterville was an honor.

Over the past 10 years I’ve enjoyed several telephone interviews with Turcotte. It always amazes me when he kindly takes the time to talk to me from his home in Grand Falls, New Brunswick. We discuss horse racing and his French-Canadian heritage.

But I finally met him when he was in Waterville for a fundraising event at the Muskie Community Center.

Turcotte is one of 12 children raised in a typical French-Canadian family in Drummond, New Brunswick. At an early age he worked with his father in a logging camp, caring for the horses. This experience helped prepare him for his career as a jockey.

He earned his place in horse racing history in 1973, when he rode the magnificent horse Secretariat to the triple crown of thoroughbred racing — winning the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico in Baltimore and the Belmont Stakes in Elmont, N.Y.

During his racing career Turcotte won 3,032 races riding some of the world’s most famous horses. A movie about his most famous mount, Secretariat, was released last year.

“Not many sports historians talk about me being French-Canadian,” he told me.

Turcotte, 70, was injured in 1978 when he was only 37 years old at an accident at Belmont Park. Although he’s been wheelchair bound ever since, he still travels to raise money for charities, especially for disabled jockeys.

“I’ve always been an optimistic person,” he said to fans. “My accident did not stop me from enjoying life one day at a time,” he said.

He agreed to speak at the Waterville fund raising event because he was driving through the area with his cousin Robert Bourgoin. They were on a return trip from Chicago where Turcotte attended a fund raising event for disabled jockeys.

My husband Richard and friend Carole Hemingway from Freeport (a fervent Turcotte fan) drove to Waterville on Aug. 16, at the invitation of Cheryl Gifford, Manager of the Muskie Center. We heard Turcotte speak about his career while showing videos of his races with Secretariat.

Gifford said hosting Turcotte in Waterville was like having a personal triple crown.

“I asked him to speak because he’s a one of my father’s heroes,” she says. Her father is recovering from a recent heart attack. “My father’s wish to meet him is now fulfilled. My family gets to meet him and we are raising money to help The Muskie Center, too.”

About 100 people including children heard Turcotte describe how he became a jockey. After working as a logger, he tried a job as a roofer. Unemployment in the construction trades led him to Winfields Farm in Toronto, where he quickly showed his skills working with race horses.

“You never know what’s ahead for you in life,” he said.

Turcotte tells stories about famous horses like Tom Rolfe, Northern Dancer, Secretariat and Riva Ridge, horses he rode to victories.

Turcotte showed videos of each of the 1973 Triple Crown races and others won with Secretariat. Each race video brought enthusiastic applause from the audience.

A question period was moderated by Mike Sweeney, the track announcer at Scarborough Downs and horse trainer. In 2002, Sweeney was the Peerless McGrath Award winner as up and coming trainer in Saratoga.

“I’m thrilled to meet and introduce the legendary Ron Turcotte today,” said Sweeney. “I was enthralled by Secretariat’s victory in 1973 and I’m just as excited today to meet the jockey who rode him.”