Australia has produced a plethora of talented jockeys who have defined themselves with their incredible feats on the track. While the horses usually grab the limelight, the sport wouldn’t be what it is without the guts and determination of those on board them.
There have been many crowning moments that have captured the imagination of the Australian public in years gone by. We run through the list of 10 of the finest Australian jockeys.
Despite succumbing to a wave of injuries, Jim Cassidy had an iron will and his competitive spirit enabled him to complete a career Grand Slam.
An undoubted favourite among the punters, Cassidy rose to prominence very quickly and he will be fondly remembered for his victory on board Kiwi at the 1983 Melbourne Cup. During that race, he was one of the backmarkers before storming through the field to clinch victory. Another Melbourne Cup triumph was to follow 14 years later on Might and Power and he tasted victory in 84 Group One races.
Perhaps one of the most recognised faces in Australian racing, Luke Nolen thrust himself into the spotlight on board the undefeated Black Caviar. Nolen became synonymous with Black Caviar and the pair were a formidable duo.
Although he got away with the cardinal sin of dropping his hands 50 metres from the winning line at Royal Ascot in 2012, the duo habitually won races by a margin of no less than three lengths.
Becoming a world-class jockey requires courage and skill and Kerrin McEvoy had both by the bucket load. Earning his stripes at the Godolphin stable, he enjoyed a lot of success in Britain as well as riding Group One winners in France, Germany and Italy. Most notably, he scored a win in an English Classic steering Rule of Law in the St Leger Stakes in 2004.
Acting as understudy to Frankie Dettori, he stepped up to the mark at Royal Ascot in 2005 when he won on Shamardal in the St. James Palace Stakes.
One of the pre-eminent jockeys of his day, Neville Sellwood was a fearsome competitor and he mastered the ability to judge pace and tactics in long-distance races.
Among Sellwood’s favourite mounts were Tulloch with whom he claimed 12 wins and Todman with 10 victories, which included the 1957 Golden Slipper Stakes. Success came easily to Sellwood and he was inducted into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame in 2002.
No discussion about the best Australian jockeys would be complete without mention of Roy Higgins. Nicknamed ‘The Professor’, Higgins dominated the horse racing scene in Australia in the 1960s and 70s.
With over 2,300 career victories to his name, Higgins was a prolific winner. Aside from his two Cox Plate wins, Caulfield Cup triumph and four victories in the VRC Derby, Higgins flourished in the Melbourne Cup and he provided the legendary trainer Bart Cummings with two winners – Light Fingers in 1965 and Red Handed in 1967.
When John Letts was in the saddle, punters rarely passed up the opportunity to place a bet on him. Among his most prominent victories was the 1980 Victoria Derby when he guided Ming Dynasty to victory.
Letts retired in 1998 with 2,350 winners and he enjoyed a glittering career as he claimed two Melbourne Cups, three Adelaide Cups, the Epsom Handicap and the Australian Cup.
Known to the horse racing fraternity as ‘The Enforcer’, Mick Dittman was never afraid to whip his mounts when required. He dominated the Brisbane scene throughout the 1970s and he consistently raised the bar.
Dittman racked up over 1,700 victories throughout his remarkable career and one of his defining achievements was when he chalked up six wins in a seven-event programme at Eagle Farm racecourse in November 1976.
A career that spanned over 30 years, Frank Dempsey was a very distinguished rider. At the tender age of 16, he got his hands on the Caulfield Cup.
And at the age of 21, he had already stopped up his third Caulfield Cup on board Eurythmic. His partnership with Eurythmic was littered with success as the duo churned up 20 wins together and that also included wins in the Futurity Stakes and the Sydney Cup. Dempsey also rode with distinction in England, clocking up more than 40 wins.
Although Glen Boss continues to ride today, he has accomplished so much over his career. Ultimately, he will be defined by his rides on board Makybe Diva and he was instrumental in inspiring a three-peat at the Melbourne Cup between 2003 and 2005.
Only two jockeys – Bobby Lewis and Harry White – have won four Melbourne Cups, so he would be joining elite company if he could emulate them in November. The anticipation for the ‘race that stops a nation’ is quickly building up and you can explore the card here.
Possessing the Midas touch, George Moore will rank as one of the best jockeys to come from Down Under. Australia’s equivalent to Lester Piggott, the wins flowed for Moore wherever he went.
Crowned Sydney champion jockey on 10 occasions between 1957 and 1969 as well as a six-time champion of the AJC Derby, Moore will be celebrated for his partnership with Tulloch, one of Australia’s most renowned racehorses, to 19 of his 36 wins.
Horse racing was in Moore’s veins. When he retired, his haul of 119 wins in Group One races was a record until he was surpassed by Damien Oliver.