Leslie Hulet, 69, Dies: Finger Lakes Hall Of Fame Jockey Rode NY-Bred Fio Rito To Historic Win

Funeral services will be held on Saturday, Sept. 29, in Paragonah, Utah, for Leslie Hulet, a six-time leading rider at Finger Lakes who guided Fio Rito to an historic victory in the 1981 Whitney at Saratoga to become the first New York-bred to win a Grade 1 race.

Mr. Hulet, 69, died after a short battle with brain cancer.

Born Jan. 8, 1949, in Cedar City, Utah, Mr. Hulet began his riding career at “bush” tracks in the west, then settled in at Finger Lakes in 1972, remaining at the Farmington, N.Y., track until his retirement in 1999. With 3,818 career wins, he became the first jockey inducted into the Finger Lakes Hall of Fame.

Fio Rito, a gray son of unheralded sire Dreaming Native, raced for trainer Michael Ferraro and Raymond LeCesse, a bowling alley owner who bought the horse’s dam for $2,300 while in foal and carrying Fio Rito.

Going into the 1981 Whitney, the 6-year-old Fio Rito had compiled 26 wins over five racing seasons, most of them coming at Finger Lakes against state-bred company.

In the Whitney, Fio Rito broke through the starting gate prior to the start, with Mr. Hulet and an assistant starter keeping the horse from running off. When reloaded, he went right to the front and never looked back, holding off Paul Mellon’s multiple G1-winning Winter’s Tale by a neck. He would go on to score an additional graded stakes victory in the Michigan Mile and One-Eighth.

Mr. Hulet, a lifelong member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, was known for his honesty and integrity. Nearly a decade after Fio Rito’s Whitney triumph, Mr. Hulet testified as a representative of the Jockeys’ Guild in a race-fixing trial that involved several members of the Finger Lakes racing community, including Fio Rito’s trainer.  Despite his testimony that the jockey named in the case “didn’t try as good as he could have on the horse,” the charges were ultimately dismissed.

Leslie Hulet

Mr. Hulet returned to Utah following his retirement. He is survived by his wife of 46 years, Ginger Lovinna Robb, seven children and 19 grandchildren. He was surrounded by family at time of passing.

“Les loved his friends, adored his wife and children, and worshiped his grandchildren,” an obituary reads. “He cherished his time with loved ones, and never missed an opportunity to brighten someone’s day with his encouraging words, optimistic attitude, funny quip, infectious smile and even a quick four-wheeler ride. Nothing made him more content than the sounds of a lawnmower and country music. And nothing made him happier than doing something nice for others.

A funeral service will be held at noon on Saturday at the Church of Latter-Day Saints in Paragonah, Utah, with interment following at the Paragonah Cemetery. A viewing will precede the funeral from 10-11:30 a.m.

Flowers may be sent to 129 South Main Street, No. 192, Paragonah, Utah 84760, but Mr. Hulet’s family suggested, “We prefer that you honor Les by doing a kind act for another.”

The post Leslie Hulet, 69, Dies: Finger Lakes Hall Of Fame Jockey Rode NY-Bred Fio Rito To Historic Win appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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