Standardbred Canada has reported that O'Brien Award winning driver Trevor Ritchie, one of the most respected and accomplished drivers in Canadian harness racing, is handing over the reins and retiring from active competition.
Ritchie, who cut his teeth driving at Western Fair before moving to the Ontario Jockey Club, has won both the prestigious North America Cup (Quite A Sensation, 1986) and Hambletonian (Yankee Paco, 2000) in his long and illustrious driving career.
"Driving horses gave me the opportunity to meet a lot of wonderful people and go to a lot of places that I would not have otherwise visited and I consider myself lucky," Ritchie told SC's Trot Insider on Monday. "I have been very fortunate in my career to have driven some great horses and I would like to thank all the trainers and owners that trusted me to drive for them. I would also like to thank all the caretakers who as we all know were a very important part in any success I've had."
Citing chronic back and neck pain, Ritchie retires with 3,710 wins and more than $70 million in earnings. He was the driver for such notable stakes winners as free-for-aller Armbro Agile, Frugal Gourmet, Road Machine, Banker Hall, Rotation, Peaceful Way and Majestic Son among a long list of top pacing and trotting talent over the last quarter century.
"Over the last many years I have been battling a recurrence of back problems from an old racing injury and more recently a neck condition," said Ritchie. "While I could usually deal with the back problem, the neck issue can be very painful and when it flares up I lose a lot, if not all mobility in my neck which of course is not ideal when driving in a race. It definitely had a negative effect on my ability to drive.
"Because of these ongoing issues it became very uncomfortable to be in the bike on a lot of nights and I had to book off my drives on occasion. Of course that is not a good situation to be putting my trainers in, having to scramble for a driver at the last minute."
Although driving has been his passion for more than 35 years, the physical issues prompted Ritchie to make what he calls "the tough but correct decision to hang up the helmet."
Long sought after for his advice in yearling conformation, and employed by Brittany Farms in such a capacity, Ritchie stated that he doesn't have any immediate plans but hopes to stay involved in the Standardbred industry.