RV and VJA Statement: Vale Elvis ‘Ricky’ Thurgood

Elvis “Ricky” Thurgood has passed away peacefully at Melbourne’s Alfred Hospital overnight, aged 62, some 41 years after a catastrophic fall at Caulfield in the Easter Cup of 1980. 

Ricky was born in November 1958 in Sri Lanka and his parents, Noel and Doris Thurgood, brought him, his brother Derek, and sister Debbie out to Australia in 1969. Ricky was ten years old at the time.

He attended secondary school at Caulfield High, which was located right next to Caulfield Racecourse, and that is where his interest in becoming a jockey sparked. One of Ricky’s teachers provided the necessary encouragement and he commenced his jockey apprenticeship. His boss was legendary Caulfield trainer, Angus Armanasco.

Ricky’s first ever race ride was at Flemington in 1976 as a 17 year old. In the same year on April 3, Ricky rode his first winner aboard a horse called “World Wonder” at Caulfield.

Four years on, in 1980, Ricky had notched up 58 career winners, from 533 rides and he was clearly loving his career as a jockey. Then tragedy struck. Ricky was riding Taras Regent in the Easter Cup and rounding the home turn the horse sustained a fatal heart attack and collapsed. 

Doctors at the Alfred Hospital advised family that it was not expected Ricky would survive that night. He was not expected to survive the coming days, weeks or months. But showing the most extraordinary spirit and courage, and drawing on the incredible love, care and faith provided by his parents and family, Ricky not only survived but thrived, living the past 41 years being cared for in the family home in Caulfield South. 

Ricky’s injuries included a traumatic brain injury of the highest magnitude as well as extreme and multiple physical deficits that saw him require round-the-clock care for his every need. 

Ricky’s passing is a time of great sadness for the Thurgood family, but they have asked their sincere appreciation be conveyed to the thousands of people who over the past 41 years have played a part in Ricky’s unique life journey. They wish to thank every person and organisation both within the Racing family and in the wider community who have provided such a level of respect, support and love to Ricky. 

Ricky’s parents Noel and Doris, brother Derek and sister Debbie and his immediate family Brian, Wendy, Andrew, Kellie and Vanessa:

“As Ricky’s loving parents and family, the past 41 years have been like nothing we could have ever have anticipated. Our blessing is that we have been able to care for Ricky at home throughout that time. We love him beyond all else and his passing leaves us heartbroken.”

Racing Victoria CEO Giles Thompson:

“On behalf of Racing Victoria and all involved in racing, I extend our deepest sympathies to the Thurgood family at this time. Ricky was a highly talented and respected young rider making his way in Victorian racing when the injury occurred. 

“To Ricky’s parents, Noel and Doris, please know that we recognise Ricky for the incredible courage he has shown over the past 41 years, and know we will remember the unwavering love and care shown by you to your son over this amazing journey.”    

Victorian Jockeys Association Executive Officer Matthew Hyland:

“On behalf of all past and current Victorian jockeys, we recognise Ricky’s passing and remember him as a much loved and valued member of the Victorian jockey group. 

“We recognise Ricky’s successes as a jockey, we salute the unbelievable reserves of bravery and courage he called on over the past 41 years of a truly extraordinary life, and we pay every possible tribute to the unfailing dedication shown by his loving, kind and amazing parents, Noel and Doris, and to the love and support provided by his brother Derek and his sister Debbie. 

“I speak for all VJA members in especially recognising and thanking Lisa Stevens from the RV/VJA Jockey Assistance Program and my predecessor Des O’Keeffe for their unwavering support of Ricky and the Thurgood family. Rest peacefully Ricky.”