RACING : Family, friends and admirers will honour an Australian turf legend and inspirational community leader when they gather at Clifford Park tomorrow to help celebrate the lifetime achievements of Richard “Darby” McCarthy.
The former master jockey and prominent aboriginal elder will be guest of honour at Toowoomba Turf Club’s Darby McCarthy Race Day function in the Clive Berghofer Atrium.
Darby’s riding feats on the home and international stage earned him a lofty place in Australian racing history.
He was born in Cunnamulla and lived in the sandhills camp on the outskirts of town with his mother and siblings before embarking on a riding career which reeled off more than 1000 winners.
Darby rose to the top of the Australian racing tree before adding to his colourful career with success in Europe in countries including France, England and Ireland.
His Australian achievements included three Stradbroke Handicap victories along with wins in the Brisbane and Doomben Cups.
Darby also won the AJC Derby on Divide And Rule and the Epsom aboard Broker’s Tip at the same Randwick spring meeting in 1969.
After his retirement in 1991, Darby went on to play a leading role as an Aboriginal community leader and mentor.
He continues to inspire generations of indigenous sports’ people through his own life story Against The Odds which is the apt title of his biography released with author Lauren Callaway in 2008.
The book foreword, penned by Cathy Freeman, spoke of the influence and encouragement she had drawn from Darby.
Darby, 75, is today being cared for at Oakey Hospital after being diagnosed with the early stages of dementia.
This week he spoke with The Chronicle about tomorrow’s race day honour and some of his life memories and loves.
“It will be a good day,” Darby said.
“I’ve met so many people in my time but I don’t know who I might see there on Saturday.
“I’ve had a wonderful walk through my racing world.
“I’ve made so many friends.
“I don’t get the opportunity to get away from here a lot these days.
“But I’m very comfortable where I am doing what I’m doing.
“I’ve been a bit lucky. My health is okay and I’m happy.
“Racing took me to a lot of places — Paris, London, Ireland — I moved around a bit to ride. I feel I did and achieved everything I could possibly do.”
Darby declares Divide And Rule the best horse he rode while talking candidly about the horsemanship and riding gift which earned him his place among Australia’s best all-time jockeys.
“I won three Stradbrokes, a Brisbane Cup and Doomben Cup and I won the AJC Derby and Epsom on the one day,” Darby said.
“Divide And Rule was the best horse I rode. He could stay and he could sprint.
“He was a superior horse.
“Tulloch was the best horse I saw and George Moore was the best jockey I rode against. (Athol) Mulley was good too.
“I rode against Lester Piggott as well. I met up with him at the Melbourne Cup a few years ago.
“They flew me down for the cup and Lester said I was the person he was most looking forward to meeting up with.
“I rode for all the leading trainers including TJ (Smith).
“One trainer I was very close to was Ian Saunders.
“I was good at my job.
“I loved horses. I got on well with them.
“I had a good understanding with horses.
“Some people might work well with dogs or other animals.
“For me it was horses.
“They did things for me in life that I couldn’t have done without them.
“I mixed with and was accepted by a lot of people.
“I could hold my own with anyone in the world.
“I’ve found my life after racing with my daughters and grandkids.
“I was lucky to walk the walk I did and do the things I did.”
# TICKETS remain available for tomorrow’s function at toowoombatickets.com.au
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