(Source: Shim Weasel)
By Hans Ebert
Jockeys are today’s gunslingers- well, some of them though most have done no favours to the profession by being what some call “ankle biters” and I dismiss as Willie Wonka’s Oompah Loompahs.
But those who make you still think they are equal parts Billy The Kid, Wild Bill Hickock, Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday with the Eagles singing Desperado in the background give this profession the respect it deserves.
There’s a sense of danger, deadly calm and internal fortitude to them that could only have been taught in the school of hard knocks with Lee Van Cleef as the professor and not in any Hooray Henry university.
Meet jockey Grant Cooksely aka “The Iceman” and you’ll know what I mean. He could have stepped out of a Sergio Leone spaghetti western as The Man With No Name.
“The Iceman” has seen and heard it all and doesn’t suffer fools gladly.
He’s like Clint Eastwood intimidating you and making you fold even when holding an inside straight in a poker game.
Same with Dougie Whyte who can read you like he can read the pace of a race. It’s all in the eyes.
Growing up, all I heard about was Ted Fordyce who rode in Ceylon and was the champion jockey over there for a number of years.
Ted Fordyce. Even the name sounded like that of a cowboy.
I was hooked on the exploits of this jockey and which meant following the races he rode in and wanting him to win every race. I even did my own phantom calls where he did win them all! It was a pretty weird and lonely childhood which might explain a few things.
My old man and uncle, both avid racing fans, would speak about Fordyce with great reverence and it was decades later when having lunch with the legendary George Moore that I wad given an enthralling education on Fordyce- how he was one of the first expat jockeys to ride in India and nicknamed “The Railwayman”.
George Moore was a walking encyclopedia on racing with an incredible ability to remember every ride, every jockey he rode against, how the race unfolded and enjoyed chatting to a “kid” like me about riders and, especially, his adventures with the great Lester Piggott, on and off the track.
(Source: Daily Mail)
George Moore did a brilliant impersonation of Piggott and a lunch with The Maestro was an invaluable lesson on racing and how A Day At The Races in Australia used to be.
There were the Beatles, the Stones, Dylan, Jim Morrison etc on one side and on the polar side of the fence, there were the jockeys and some twisted pretzel logic which brought both sides together.
It could have been the drugs which still makes me believe that Jesus Christ, King Arthur and Julius Caesar are the same person and why I think I was a cowboy in a previous life who was shot in the back during a poker game. It’s why I always sit today facing the door.
(Source: Daily Harangue)
There is something to be said about a parallel universe and The Verve singing, The Drugs Don’t Work Anymore.
Growing up in Hong Kong, the one name heard the most often was Peter Miers and who took over from the days when a local jockey named Kenny Kwok was champion jockey.
(Source: Racing Memories)
Miers was known as “The Organiser”, admired by some, loathed by others, but he didn’t care about being popular as he and his gang- names like Bill Burnett, Leon Fox, Ray Setches- in cahoots with trainer Bob Burns ran Hong Kong racing.
(Source: Sodanca Passion)
At this time, a talented young local gunslinger was emerging- Tony Cruz- and taken under the wing of Miers.
(Source: Tony Cruz)
Peter Miers was the guy who wore the black hat and was the Lee Van Cleef character in this particular horse opera.
Though some, like outspoken local racing personality Tung Biu, did his best to tar and feather him, Peter Miers ruled the town and was never outta bullets.
Sometimes, you root for the bad guy, and I did and admired the ability of Miers to outfox them all and fight the law and win. He was another song- I Shot The Sheriff.
After the reign of Peter Miers, I lost interest in Hong Kong racing and the new reigns of Cheng Tai-chee, Gary Moore and Tony Cruz.
Guess I had to be here to appreciate it, but I was by then long gone and into the music of Sgt Pepper’s, Led Zeppelin, Dylan, Pink Floyd, Hendrix, Traffic and every other Rock Guitar God.
(Source: Music Room)
Jockeys and racing, I could take or leave and, for the most part, left it for dead.
The jockeys-as-gunslingers resurfaced when Stevie Cauthen emerged as some Billy The Kid character- a brilliant young American jockey who took them all on- in the States and then Europe.
There was a Rock’n Roll vibe to him and his exploits. Stevie Cauthen played and rode to win.
Later, I was to meet Kieren Fallon and Michael Kinane and was hooked again on the exploits of these two brilliant jockeys who were modern day gunslingers.
They were street-smart, they played and flirted with danger and lived life in the fast lane.
They were Butch and Sundance with Kinane being the far more laid-back of the two and the incredibly talented Fallon being more like the gunslinger who would shoot up the town just for the hell of it.
(Source: Star Media)
When these two Irish gunslingers rode in Hong Kong, the tracks came alive with the sound of gunfire and horsepower.
Of course, Kieren Fallon is still riding today- tough, determined- an outlaw like Johnny Cash, Keith Richards, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings are to music, and whose exploits on and off the track are the stuff of legends.
Racing needs personalities like Fallon though some Stewards might disagree. Would they dare cross swords with Fallon on a level playing field and away from the limelight? What do you think?
Frankie Dettori, on the other hand, is like a Roy Rogers- at least until his last small fall from grace.
Dettori is affable, he and Ray Cochrane came back from the dead, riding those seven winners was an unbelievable feat and if he was a musician, he’d be Michael Buble- a great entertainer loved by the masses, but not exactly a Nick Cave.
Where are we today? Yes, there are some very good jockeys riding around the world- Craig Williams, Hugh Bowman, Michael Rodd, Mikhael Barzalona, Christophe Lemaire, the brilliant Olivier Peslier, Gerard Mosse, Maxime Guyon, William Buick, below, but there is something missing in all of them for me.
(Source: Horse Racing Tavern)
Perhaps it’s that special something that transcends being “just a jockey” and being a personality- a brand- like David Beckham, Lewis Hamilton, Messi, Ronaldo, and Alonso- brands that sponsors like Nike and Adidas need to build up their own brands with consumers.
No matter how good a jockey he is right now, Craig Williams does not have that X factor which Kieren Fallon still poses today and nor does he have that sponsorship appeal of other sportsmen which will appeal to consumers.
If just for the Australian market and working as a brand manager, I would do my damndest to get Danny Nikolic and Terry Bailey to appear together in an ad campaign. The video will go viral in minutes.
(Source: Herald Sun)
Failing this, an AbFab type of commercial with Singo and Lady Gai. Hey, we can all wish.
(Source: Daily Telegraph)
As for giving racing that extra something- a real personality in a jockey- perhaps the time is now right for a female to step forward and become the Annie Oakley of riders- a tough bitch of a gunslinger who beat the men at their own game.
(Source: Play Le)