Jockeys are the men and women of steel who make horse racing exciting. The diminutive athletes are pound-for-pound some of the strongest people in the world. Weighing little more than 100 pounds, a jockey is able to steer a 1,000 pound animal through narrow openings and control the horse’s speed throughout a race. Here is a look at ten jockeys that are regarded as legends in Australian horse racing.
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One of the first names to come to mind when thinking about successful Australian horse racing jockeys is Arthur Breasley. He was more commonly known by his nickname of Scobie. Many jockeys of the modern era will tell you that Scobie Breasley was perhaps the most naturally-gifted jockey to ever sit on a horse. He had a keen sense of balance and superb instincts, two qualities that guided him to a Hall of Fame career in Australia.
Breasley rode over 1,000 winning horses in Australia. He managed to capture a record five Caulfield Cups in his career. Breasley was also known for getting the best from his horses using only his hands and feet. He very rarely relied on the whip to encourage his horses. The jockey was eventually lured away to Britain where he joined the ranks of the top jockeys there, winning more than 2,000 races. Breasley passed away in 2006. Today he is honored with the annual presentation of the Scobie Breasley Medal to Australia’s top horse racing jockey.
George Moore began race riding in Australia in 1939. He would go on to become one of the continent’s all-time great jockeys. Moore was discovered soon after his debut by the Sydney trainer Tommy Smith. The two formed an impressive team that dominated Australian horse racing for many years. 10 riding premierships were awarded to George Moore over the course of his impressive career, and he won 119 Group 1 stakes events. This is a record that still stands today in Australia.
Perhaps the most famous horse ridden by George Moore was Tulloch. The two combined for victories in the biggest stakes event in Australia. Moore also achieved success on two other continents. He won races in Europe such as the Epsom Derby and Ascot Gold Cup, and he also became an award-winning trainer in Asia. Moore was named the top trainer in Hong Kong 11 times. He passed away in 2008.
Not all of the athletes on this list of Australia’s top horse racing jockeys are from yesteryear. Damien Oliver began his race riding career in 1988. He was an immediate success, and soon caught the attention of Australian horse training legend Lee Freedman. Oliver moved his tack to Melbourne so that he could ride for Freedman as an apprentice. The two combined to produce victories in important events such as the Melbourne Cup and Cox Plate.
Damien Oliver has won seven Scobie Medals, and at the present time more than 100 Group I events. Many believe that he has the potential to break the record for Group I wins held by George Moore. Oliver is also one of just seven jockeys that has completed the Australian horse racing Grand Slam by winning the Melbourne Cup, Cox Plate, Caulfield Cup, and Golden Slipper.
Jim Cassidy was born in New Zealand but achieved success in Australia. Cassidy is known for his competitive attitude and tough riding ability. Never one to shy away from a confrontation, Cassidy has certainly had his share of conflicts with fellow riders. He made his mark on the Australian racing world when he rode the horse Kiwi to a win in the 1983 Melbourne Cup. What was most impressive about this ride is that the horse moved from last to first throughout the running of the event.
Cassidy is just one of four jockeys in Australian history that have managed to notch 100 or more Group 1 Stakes wins. He has also completed the Grand Slam of Australian racing and will always be remember as a jockey that could encourage the best performances from the horses he was called upon to ride.
Neville Selwood was born in 1922. He came to prominence as an Australian jockey by riding for the legendary trainer Maurice McCarten. Selwood began his career in 1940 in Brisbane before moving to the larger circuits of Sydney. It wasn’t long before Hall of Fame trainer Tommy Smith was calling, and Selwood became one of the jockeys to be tasked with riding Tulloch. Together, horse and rider managed to win the Caulfield Cup in 1957.
Selwood would manage to win the Caulfield Cup twice more, and he would also win the Melbourne Cup two times. Wins in the Cox Plate and Golden Slipper make him another Grand Slam Australian jockey champion. Selwood won more than 1,500 races in his illustrious career, a feat that not many Australian jockeys can claim. His career was tragically cut short when he died at the age of 39 from injuries sustained in a race accident. French trainer Alex Head called Selwood the best jockey to ever live.
Roy Higgins won over 2,300 races in his long career. Higgins was nicknamed “The Professor” for his methodical approach to horse racing. He was more than just a jockey. He was a true student of the sport who always pushed himself to become better than he was. Higgins would spend hours studying the strengths and weaknesses of his opponents, looking for an edge that could give him the win.
The accomplishments of Roy Higgins are even more impressive when one realizes that he struggled for most of his career with weight issues. Despite these difficulties, Higgins was able to win 108 Group I events. This is second only to George Moore in the history of Australian horse racing. Roy Higgins won the Melbourne Cup and the Cox Plate two times each, forever cementing his legacy as a top tier Australian jockey.
Harry White is a rider that is often overlooked when it comes to legendary jockeys in Australia. Granted, White may not have won as many races as some of his colleagues on the tracks, but the events he did conquer were the biggest in the land. White was regarded as a distance specialist among his peers. He had a keen sense of timing that would allow him to move a horse into contention only when they were ready to make a final run. This ability helped White to score three victories in the Newmarket Handicap.
Darren Beadman began riding horses in Australia when he was just a teenager. He started his career in 1982 and was an instant success. Beadman won his first riding title as an apprentice, being named the top apprentice jockey in all of Australia. He won the Golden Slipper Stakes in just his second year as a rider, a feat that many jockeys never accomplish in all their years of race riding.
As it so happens with many top Australian jockeys, other racing circuits soon came calling. Beadman found himself in Hong Kong where he repeated the success that he had achieved in his native Australia. Sadly, his career would come to a tragic halt in Hong Kong. Darren Beadman suffered a head injury that forced him to retire from racing while still a young man.
Robert Thompson could be called the Russell Baze of Australian horse racing. He is the all-time leading jockey by wins in Australia with more than 4,000 victories to his credit. Thompson never managed to elevate himself to the ranks of other riders, mainly because he tended to ride on smaller circuits and in smaller events. Some say that the ageless wonder could possibly achieve 5,000 wins before all is said and done. Now over 60 years old, the veteran can still be seen from time to time in Australian races.
Thomas Hales was among the very first class of inductees into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame. He rode from 1872 to 1894, and his very first win came at the tender age of 13. He won almost 500 races in his career while also notching a large number of seconds and thirds. Hales was what many handicappers refer to as a money rider because of his ability to always find a way to finish in the top three.
During the 1888 Melbourne Cup Carnival Thomas Hales was named on 14 horses. He won with 11 of them. There has never been another jockey who could come close to matching that feat.
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- The Melbourne Cup – Australias’s Biggest Horse Race
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