It is with sadness that Racing Victoria (RV) acknowledges the passing yesterday of Melbourne Cup-winning jockey W.A. ‘Billy’ Smith.
Smith, 92, was inducted into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame in 2018 after a career in the saddle that spanned more than four decades.
Born in Ballarat in 1928, Smith moved to Epsom to work in the stables of Ted Temby and then in February 1943 he was indentured to Wally O’Dwyer.
As a natural lightweight, Smith crafted his early career around this lifelong advantage. Smith’s best win as an apprentice was on the Lou Robertson trained horse, Air Marshall, which he rode to victory at 100-1 in the 1947 VRC Standish Handicap.
In 1949 Smith travelled across to Perth where he won on Royal Academy in the prestigious King’s Cup. In the mid-1950s Billy moved to the North Island of New Zealand, winning many feature races, including three Derbies, and five jockeys’ premierships.
Smith returned to Melbourne for the 1960 spring carnival and the centenary Melbourne Cup on the 50-1 chance, New Zealand mare High Jinx.
Smith’s historic victory in the 100th Melbourne Cup led to him re-establish himself in Victoria for the next decade. He was Melbourne’s premier jockey in season 1960-61.
During this decade he rode with great success, winning all the major Cup races including the VATC Caulfield Cup (1961), the WATC Perth Cup (1962), the AJC Sydney Cup (1963) and the QTC Brisbane Cup (1968).
Smith retired from permanent race riding in season 1982-83 having claimed over 50 feature race wins, 18 of them at the equivalent Group 1 level.
RV Chief Executive, Giles Thompson, said: “On behalf of the Victorian racing industry, I would like to extend our heartfelt prayers and condolences to Billy’s family and friends following the sad news of his passing.
“Billy was an outstanding jockey who saw success all across Australian and international racetracks and his achievements in the saddle will long be remembered through his membership of the Australian Racing Hall of Fame.”
Australian Jockeys Association Chief Executive, Martin Talty, said: “Billy was a highly respected and successful jockey who achieved at the highest level. On behalf of Australia’s jockeys, we pass on our deepest sympathies to Billy’s family at this sad time.”