The Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame is saddened to learn of the passing of jockey and CHRHF Honoured Member, Class of 1983, Hugo Dittfach.
Mr. Dittfach, the winner of over 4,000 races in a riding career spanning from 1956 to 1989 was affectionately known as “Hustlin” Hugo.
Dittfach had to overcome more obstacles than most jockeys. He came to Canada after World War II, a refugee from East Germany who had spent time in a concentration camp in Poland. It was while working as a busboy in a Calgary restaurant that a patron suggested he was the right size to ride horses at the track. Dittfach knew nothing about riding horses, but through hard work and persistence he rose to the top of his profession.
In 1961 Dittfach reached the pinnacle of Canadian racing, 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.
Hugo 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. It was his work ethic that enabled Hugo Dittfach to get his start in Western Canada, and one he never discarded during a career which was highlighted in 1991 when he was awarded the Avelino Gomez Memorial Award. The award goes to a jockey who had made a significant contribution to the sport. Another huge moment in his career occurred in 1975 when The Jockey Club of Canada inaugurated the Sovereign Awards to honour horses and people in the industry. The first winner of merit to a jockey went to Hugo Dittfach.
The Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame extends heartfelt condolences to Mr. Dittfach’s family and all who loved and admired him.