Theodore "Ted" Francis Atkinson
Theodore Francis Atkinson was a Canadian-born American thoroughbred horse racing jockey, inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1957.
Born in Toronto, Ontario, Ted Atkinson as a child emigrated with his family across the border to upstate New York. He began his career in thoroughbred horse racing in 1938 and first gained national recognition in 1941, when he rode War Relic to an upset win in the Narragansett Special over the 1941 U.S. Triple Crown winner Whirlaway. For 12 of his 21 years in the sport, Atkinson was contract rider for the wealthy New York Whitney family's Greentree Stable. In 1944, he was North America's leading jockey in both number of wins and money earned. He repeated the feat in 1946, when he became the first rider to achieve purse earnings of more the $1 million in a single season.
Riding Greentree's colt Capot, Atkinson just missed winning the U.S. Triple Crown in 1949 when he finished second in the Kentucky Derby then won both the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes. Atkinson was also the jockey for all of Hall of Famer Tom Fool's races, guiding the colt to a perfect season of 10 wins in 10 starts, including the New York Handicap Triple and winning the Horse of the Year honors in 1953.
In 1957, Ted Atkinson won the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award and that same year became the first active jockey elected to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. He was then invited to appear on the CBS television's Ed Sullivan Show. In an article on jockey Eddie Arcaro, TIME magazine wrote that: "He [Arcaro] also gives a large share of credit to gentlemanly Jockey Ted Atkinson, who helped raise the standard of sportsmanship on New York tracks."
Following his retirement in 1959 as a result of a back injury, Atkinson became a racing official and served as State Steward in Illinois from 1961 until 1976.
Atkinson, who had been fighting a lengthy cancer-related illness, died at his home near Beaverdam, Virginia after several strokes, a few weeks short of his 89th birthday. He was survived by his wife, Martha; children Cathie, John and Mark; and three grandchildren, Johanna, William and television personality and racing analyst Caton Bredar. His late sister, Ruth Atkinson Ford, was a pioneering woman comic book artist who helped create the long-running characters Millie the Model and Patsy Walker.