Ronald Joseph Franklin was 16 years old before he ever rode a horse. Barely 5 feet tall, he and some friends were wrestling in the front yard when a neighbor noticed his build and commented that he should be a jockey.
He took Franklin to Pimlico Race Track, and the boy was hooked. He got a job as a hot walker in trainer Bud Delp’s barn, and eventually learned how to ride Thoroughbreds.
He got the ride of a lifetime when he started exercising a horse named Spectacular Bid. Delp noticed the rapport between the two and made Franklin Bid’s regular rider. Franklin rode Bid on 10 races during the horse’s 12-race winning streak, which ended with a nasty trip in the Belmont Stakes. Franklin was taken off Bid and replaced with veteran Bill Shoemaker.
Things for Franklin went downhill quickly. He suffered from drug problems for most of his career, and his jockey’s license was eventually taken away from him permanently.