Gary Harley – RNSW – Jan 2022

The Legend Retires

Australian Newcastle Hunter Hall Of Famer and Newcastle Jockey Club ‘Legend’ Robert Thompson retired form race riding after an incredible career in the saddle. The Cessnock based Thompson has set a record on the track that is difficult to believe will ever be equalled. He rode 4447 winners in a career that began when he was a 14 year old apprentice in 1973. More winners by far than any jockey in Australia’s history.

Racing NSW’s CEO Peter V’Landys AM praised the champion jockey when Thompson announced his retirement on November 29. “When someone speaks of a gentleman of the turf at the top of this list would be Robert Thompson. Robert has been a highly successful jockey breaking many records and longevity and dedication to the sport is renowned.

He is not just a champion jockey Robert is a champion person and admired by every jockey that crosses his path and we wish him well in his next phase of life” V’Landys said.

Some of the highlights of Thompsons career include the following:

  • 4447 Winners
  • Member Of The Order Of Australia (AM) in 2015
  • Inducted into Australian Racing Hall Of Fame 2015
  • Inducted into Newcastle And Hunter Hall Of Fame 2017
  • Represented Australia in International Series in New Zealand, Korea, Singapore and Malaysia
  • 7 Group 1 Winners
  • Won 11 Jungle Juice Cups and 6 Cessnock Cups
  • In 2008 he broke Jack Thompsons Australian record of 3322 winners

Thompsons late father Arthur was a successful trainer and ‘RT’ made the following comments “Working alongside my father all my life was the highlight of my career. Romantic Dream was the best horse that I rode and Peter Cook and Wayne Harris were the best jockeys I rode against.

“I am 63 my wife Jenni and I have three lovely grandchildren and we want to spend more time with them” the iconic figure said.

The Hunter

2021 The Hunter race day at Newcastle Racecourse was the classiest yet with the winner the first sprinter to back up from The Everest and he is destined for Group 1 success in the future. Lost And Runnings’ performance to coast to victory in the $1 million The Hunter was astounding as he overcame a horror barrier, raced three wide without cover, shouldered 59 kilograms and toyed with a crack field.

Hugh Bowman rode the winner which beat the Kris Lees trained English import  Wandabaa by one and a quarter lengths.

Trainer John O’Shea was very confident of victory when interviewed on Sky Racing prior to the race and the five year old gelding did not let him down. “He is a class act and I am so proud of him. We knew he would keep improving during this preparation.”

Lost And Running did so well after his run in the Classique Legend so I decided to give him another run. The Hunter is a great race and the Newcastle track is fantastic. The Hunter is a great day and one of those growing days that have been developed and is only going to get better. He will go for a spell and come back for races like the Canterbury Stakes and All Aged Stakes in the Autumn then have another break and be set for another crack at The Everest” O’Shea said.

Lost And Running is raced by a group of big players in New South Wales racing including Carl Holt, Kiwi Lib Petagna, Frank and Christine Cook and O’Shea’s wife Isabelle. The Newcastle Jockey Club is elated with the success of the 2021 The Hunter Day with turnover up 30% on the previous year and a capacity crowd of 4000 under the restrictions.

The top jockeys rapt the Newcastle track and guests at the meeting included Racing NSW Chairman Russell Balding AO and Operations General Manager Graeme Hinton.

Max Lees Classic

The 2 Year old Max Lees Classic named after Newcastle’s most successful trainer (20 Group 1’s) was one of four feature races on The Hunter Day. It was the fifth running of the classic and for the third time the Snowden stable trained the winner Russian Conquest. The latter was ridden by Tommy Berry.

The Beauford

Newcastle’s newest race the $300,000 The Beauford for the stayers was held on The Hunter Day. The Laurie Parker trained Torrens bolted in with Central Coast mother Jenny Duggan in the saddle. The apprentice has won three times on Torrens this preparation.

Spring Stakes

The Choisir filly Festive Dancer ran her rivals off their legs in the New Zealand Bloodstock 3 year old Spring Stakes a Group 3 event. The win was the filly’s fourth on the trot and she provided Dylan Gibbons a 3 kilogram claimer with his first Group success (see story in this article) Matthew Smith trained the winner.

Rescue Helicopter Fundraiser

The third annual Westpac Rescue Helicopter Luncheon on the eve of The Hunter Race Day raised more than $43,000 for the organisation. The luncheon was held at the racecourse and sold out around an hour after it was advertised. Guest speaker was Peter Snowden while a panel compromising Sky Racing Lizzie Jelfs, Kris Lees and Australian Bloodstock co-founder Luke Murrell were interviewed by MC’s Gavin Carmody and Gary Harley.

Julia Ritchie and Matt McGrath represented the Australian Turf Club which generously provided two auction items which raised a total of $23,000

Dylan’s 1st Group Winner

Newcastle apprentice Dylan Gibbons rode his first Group winner on The Hunter Day on November 13. The 20 year old was aboard the Matthew Smith trained filly Festival Dancer in the Group 3 New Zealand Bloodstock 3 year old Spring Stakes 1600m.

Festival Dancer led most of the way to win by 2 ½ lengths. Gibbons had never ridden at a Saturday Metropolitan class meeting but he was not overwhelmed by the presence of Australia’s best jockeys and he gave a polished display. Gibbons was so excited on dismounting,

“I don’t think I can put this win into words. This is something I always dreamt about as a kid, these big moments. To do it here on my home track is unreal. My grandparents are here, my partner is working here in the stables and my parents are at home watching. It can’t be any better.”

“I thought before the race that she will lead and give them something to chase. Festival Dancer is small but has a big heat and is tough. I am thankful to Matty Smith who has supported me so much” Gibbons said.

Legends Day

The Newcastle Jockey Clubs annual Legends Race Day attracted a healthy crowd to the Newcastle Racecourse on Sunday November 28. The race day recognised the contribution to the racing industry by the clubs four Legends- Paul Perry, Robert Thompson, Kris Lees and Gary Harley. The eight race program also included a heat of the Sky Racing Summer Provincial Series.

The race was trifected by Newcastle trainers with Kris Lees imported mare Grande Rumore relegating Paul Perry’s Saquan and Jason Dreamers Greek Here in to the minor placings.