Oldest living winner recalls Melbourne cup victory
W.A "Billy" Smith vividly remembers shooting down a quick conversation with a rival jockey shortly after steering Hi Jinx to victory in the 1960 Melbourne Cup.
The 50-1 outsider narrowly edged out Howsie and Ilumquh to win the great race. Champion Tulloch was seventh.
Lying on a bed at the Gold Coast Private Hospital this week, the oldest-surviving Cup winner remembers the first thing he said while on the track: "Howsie's rider Purtell said to me 'he didn't give me much room'. I said 'what are you whinging about'."
Mr Smith, born in Ballarat, recalls returning home to Melbourne for the racing season in 1960 after spending a few years across the Tasman.
Leading into the race that stops a nation, Mr Smith had a handshake agreement to ride Aircraft despite trainer Trevor Knowles asking him to ride Hi Jinx.
Even after a disappointing performance in the Caulfield Cup, Smith, a man of his word, couldn't be persuaded to swap horses.
Then luck turned for the then 32-year-old.
"I came over from New Zealand to ride another horse, Aircraft. He went no good in the Caulfield Cup," the Australian Racing Hall of Famer said.
"He bled on the Saturday before the Melbourne Cup and Knowles said I'm waiting until the last minute and he did.
"I had won on Hi Jinx previously, so he knew how I'd go."
Aircraft was scratched from the Melbourne Cup field and Smith was able to ride Hi Jinx.
"It was a thrill riding her," Mr Smith recalls.
Mr Smith picked the perfect time to win his one and only Melbourne Cup despite riding in the race 14 times. Hi Jinx won the Centenary Cup, for which the prize money doubled from £12,500 to £25,000.
Mr Smith, 92, won many races over his 40-year career as a lightweight jockey, including the 1961 Caulfield Cup on Summer Fair.
Living on the Gold Coast since retiring in 1980, Mr Smith enjoyed spending time behind the bar at the Benowa Tavern and at the Wallaby Hotel in Mudgeeraba, providing tips for friend "Wallaby Bob" McMaster.
More than 101,000 people were at Flemington the day he won on Hi Jinx. No one will be there today because of COVID-19.
On Tuesday he will watch the Melbourne Cup with family by his side at the Gold Coast Private Hospital cheering on his tip Tiger Moth.
Originally published as Oldest living winner recalls Melbourne cup victory