Woodbine Entertainment is saddened to learn of the passing of Hall of Fame jockey Hugo Dittfach at age 85.

A winner of over 4,000 races, ‘Hustlin’ Hugo Dittfach is remembered for his incredible work ethic and perseverance. Dittfach arrived in Canada following World War II, a refugee from East Germany that spent three-years in a Russian concentration camp in Poland.

While working at a restaurant in Calgary, Dittfach received a suggestion from a patron that he pursue horse racing due to his size. Launching his career in 1956, Dittfach was a leading rider in Western Canada before relocating to Ontario.

Dittfach would reach the pinnacle of Canadian racing in 1961, riding 20-1 longshot Blue Light to victory in the Queen’s Plate, edging the world’s leading race-winning jockey Johnny Longden and race-favourite Just Don’t Shove in one of the closest finishes in race history.

Dittfach remained a fixture and leading rider at Woodbine, Greenwood and Fort Erie for many years, winning numerous stakes, including the Prince of Wales a record five-times. He retired from riding in 1989 to become a trainer.

“So many individuals in our racing industry, including myself, are lucky to have cherished memories of Hugo,” said Jim Lawson, CEO of Woodbine Entertainment. “Hugo was a hard-working, earnest man, that gave his all every time he got on the back of a horse. Hugo rode regularly for Jim Dandy Stable and I fondly remember his ride on Ruthie’s Run to win the Princess Elizabeth Stakes in 1974.

“A true gentleman, Hugo made an incredible contribution to our sport in Ontario and will be missed by all.”

‘Hustlin’ Hugo won the Sovereign Award as Canada’s Outstanding Jockey in 1975, was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 1983 and received the Avelino Gomez Memorial Award in 1991 for his contributions to the sport.

Woodbine Entertainment extends sincere condolences to the family and friends of Hugo Dittfach.

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