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Meet Jockey T. D. “Terry” Houghton!
He was born in Denver but jockey T. D. Houghton (pronounced How-ton) is a Michigander, through and through. That may change, however.
“I was born in Denver in 1970,” Houghton began, but I was still a baby when my family moved to Hazel Park, Michigan.” Hazel Park, near Detroit, is where Hazel Park Racetrack, which once raced Thoroughbreds, is located.
That was the reason for the move. Houghton’s father, Ron, was a jockey. The latter had ridden in Colorado and Nebraska before the move to Hazel Park.
Ron Houghton’s brothers, Gary, Walt, and Mel, also were jockeys. On the other side of the family, Claudia, T. D.’s mother, had a brother, Bobby Gaffilione, who was a jockey. Bobby’s son, Steve Gaffilione, also became a jockey.
Did you follow all that? Then let’s deal with the oft-asked question: are T. D. Houghton and trainer Roy Houghton related? “We don’t know that we are,” answered T. D., “but Roy sure looks a lot like a couple of my uncles.”
Certainly T. D. Houghton was destined to become a jockey. “I’m not sure if I was riding horses or walking first,” Houghton offered. “As far back as I can remember, I was getting on horses. I was even aboard and taking them around the shed row as a grade schooler.
“At 12 my dad taught me to gallop (exercise) horses,” he continued. “I wanted to take out my apprentice jockey’s license at 16, but my mother discouraged that. She was afraid I wouldn’t finish school if I did.”
Houghton concentrated on school and graduated from Hazel Park High (the Vikings), Class of ’88.
That same year Houghton was the leading apprentice at Detroit Race Course (DRC). For the winter of 1988-89 he journeyed to Tampa Bay Downs where he was third in the standings when he broke his collarbone, forcing a return home to Michigan and a subsequent comeback at DRC in the summer of 1989.
Houghton became a dominant rider at DRC. He was leading rider for the first time in 1994, and won that title each year thereafter until DRC closed in 1998.
Houghton also accumulated several records during that period, capped by most wins in a DRC season, 317. He set the record for most six-win days at nine, and had a seven-win day. He also set the record for most wins in a week, 22, breaking the record of 19 set by another dominant DRC rider, Wayne Catalano. However, he couldn’t quite break Catalano’s record of 47 straight race days with a winner, Houghton “only” making it to 45.
After DRC closed for good in 1998, Houghton went to Tampa Bay Downs for the 1998-99 season and was leading rider. From there he tried River Downs but Michigan’s hold on him was too strong. “On July 4th I shifted my tack to Great Lakes Downs,” he explained. “With all my Michigan ties, and a great agent in Frank “The Greek” Garoufalis, I advanced to second in the standings despite coming in late and getting injured later.”
Great Lakes in the summer and Tampa Bay Downs in the winter became a convenient circuit for Houghton. “There’s a little down time between meets, which allows me to spend quality time with my daughters, Ashley (10) and Melissa (6), in Kentucky.”
Houghton has made forays to Chicago, with success. “With the future of Great Lakes in doubt, I am strongly considering basing here,” revealed Houghton.
“He’s talented, personable, and has a good work ethic,” agent Allen Plever added. “He’ll continue to do well here.”