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Ad Seven Australian jockeys, all of whom rode in the last race "The Charleston Maiden Stakes" as well as in the Derby on the following day in June 1964 at Epsom, England. From left to right: Bill Williamson, Jack Putell, Garnie Bougoure, Arthur "Scbie" Breasley, Bill Pyers, Eddie Cracknell, Ron Hutchinson

Ron Hutchinson and the Australian Cup

24 March 2023 Written by Andrew Lemon

VRC Australian Cup Day is the perfect occasion to celebrate the illustrious international career of former champion jockey Ron Hutchinson.

VRC Australian Cup Day is the perfect occasion to celebrate the illustrious international career of former champion jockey Ron Hutchinson. In a sense it all began here at Flemington 78 years ago. As a 17-year-old apprentice in his first year of riding, R. Hutchinson won the Australian Cup on a grey mare named Spectre, who had never won a race before. 

‘The Old Grey Mare Better Than She Used To Be,’ quipped a Sydney newspaper. The odds were long, and all credit was given to the boy jockey as he sooled Spectre (carrying barely 43 kg) to the front half a mile from home and rode her to the finishing post with what became his trademark pace and judgement, just half a second outside the course record.  

This was Ron Hutchinson’s first feature race victory, and his eighth race win. He went on to  win the Australian Cup three times more, on Bold John in 1950 (breaking the course record), on Sir Chester Manifold’s colt Arbroath in 1953 and on Pushover in 1956—in a course record again! In a long career there would be some 3000 wins for Hutchinson: success in country cups and feature races on city tracks in every capital in Australia, then on famous racetracks around the world: Newmarket, Ascot, Epsom, The Curragh, Longchamp, Baden-Baden, Milan and Rome, Singapore and more.

Right from the start they predicted big things for the small kid. At his first city win at Mentone in August 1944 the Sporting Globe had said: ‘The lad carries the confidence of a number of astute trainers at Flemington’. In January 1945 he rode a treble at Moonee Valley: ‘A youngster with a bright future.’ The Australian Cup on Spectre was the proof.

Here was the Weekly Times a year later: ‘No apprentice rider in Melbourne has better prospects of reaching the top of his profession than Ron Hutchinson, apprenticed to Mr Claude Goodfellow at Ascot Vale. Young Hutchinson has wanted to be a jockey since he was a lad and sold sweets at the Sun Theatre at Yarraville. As the trainer said, he had the essential attributes of a horseman—good hands and a keen brain.’ 

Australia has produced many champion jockeys—Hutchinson is among forty-seven in the Australian Racing Hall of Fame including his early tutor Bob Lewis and colonial-era jockey Tom Hales who won the Australian Cup a record eight times—but by any reckoning Ron Hutchinson must figure near the top. He was champion Victorian apprentice two years in succession. As a senior jockey throughout the 1950s he finished perennially a close second in the Melbourne premiership, most often to his great rival Bill Williamson—who was best man at his wedding to Norma Gum in 1953. Hutchinson became premier jockey in his own right in season 1958–59.

His career then took him to Britain through to the end of 1977. Most years he rode a hundred winners or more. Time and again he came agonisingly close to the English jockey premiership, edged out first by his compatriot Scobie Breasley and later by Lester Piggott. Not bad company.

It was fellow Australian, George Moore, already riding in England, who had recommended Ron Hutchinson to Irish trainer Paddy Prendergast in 1960. Success was immediate in both Ireland and the UK. At his first ride in England, at Newmarket, Hutchinson seized the classic 2000 Guineas on Martial—from Moore, in a photo finish.

Whether it was the broad tracks at Newmarket or the tight bends at Chester, Hutchinson proved himself adaptable, a master of pace, always looking for the shortest way home.

Ron Hutchinson riding Ragstone (left) wins the Gold Cup from Willie Carson on Proverb at Ascot on 20 June 1974. (Ed Lacey/Getty Images)

The winners kept coming. From 1962 Ron Hutchinson rode on retainer for the strong stable of cricket-loving Bernard Fitzalan-Howard, 16th Duke of Norfolk at Arundel Castle in Sussex. With trainer John Dunlop, their greatest triumph was the 1974 Ascot Gold Cup on Ragstone, bred by the Duke. Hutchinson’s classic wins in England included the 1969 St Leger (Intermezzo) and the 1000 Guineas (Full Dress). In 1966 he won the Goodwood Cup on Gaulois for the Queen. He took the Irish 1000 Guineas three times. His best European victories included the 1966 Italian Derby on Appiani and the 1966 and 1967 Grossen Preis von Baden respectively, first on Atilla, then Salvo.

Inevitably in a brilliant career there were tantalising near misses. He scored two thirds and a second in the Melbourne Cup (Morse Code 1950, Pandie Sun 1957, Grand Print 1961) and a second and a third in the Caulfield Cup (Rainbird 1945, Sailor’s Guide 1957). In France with Salvo he finished a close second in the 1967 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. A decade later he again finished second in the Arc, on New Zealand champion Balmerino. On the same horse he lost the Gran Premio di Jockey Club Italiano only on protest. In the Derby at Epsom he twice finished third (Kythos and Mount Athos). He rode Shirley Heights as a two-year-old but retired from the saddle in England as he reached his fiftieth birthday at the end of 1977: Shirley Heights won the Derby the following June.

Each year in the English winter, Hutchinson returned to Australia and always sought opportunities to ride. In a strategic investment, Hutchinson joined the select syndicate led by Colin Hayes to form the Lindsay Park stud and training centre in South Australia.

After retiring from riding in England, Hutchinson spent three years on the Singapore–Malaysia circuit, premier jockey there in 1978. He returned permanently to Australia in 1988. His son Peter won the 1993 Caulfield Cup on Fraar—one of the biggest thrills in Ron Hutchinson’s career. 

Each Melbourne Cup Carnival since 1999 Ron Hutchinson has personally judged the Ron Hutchinson Award for riding excellence over the four days, not necessarily for the winner of the most races. It’s all about the skills he exemplified: where the jockeys position their horse, how well they anticipate, how they negotiate their competition. Pace, judgement: from the grandstand Hutchinson still rides, and Spectre runs again.

Group Racing, a Golden Ticket, and Fareground fun makes the TAB Australian Cup Race Day a pivotal day on the racing calendar and a fitting finale to the Flemington Racing Spectacular. Don't miss out on your tickets.

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