Jim Pike was inducted into the Newcastle and Hunter Racing Hall of Fame on 30th May 2023.
Featured Image: ‘The incomparable combination Jim Pike on Phar Lap’. Jim Pike The Master: His Life and Times 1892 – 1969 by Alan Chittick
Born at The Junction in 1892 into a non-racing family Pike was small and wayward, and loved being around horses, often playing truant from school to catch and ride the horses and pit ponies that were then plentiful throughout the district’s fields and paddocks.
At 12 he joined trainer Ernie Connors’ stables and had his first race ride soon afterwards. He rode his first winner – Victoria Cross – at Maitland but not before being banned from race riding because he was both too young and too small.
By February 1908 he had ridden around 40 winners.
Best known for his nation-cheering association with the peerless Phar Lap during the height of the Great Depression, Pike first rode the champion when winning the 1929 AJC Derby in record time and went on to record 27 wins from 30 races on the champion.
On Saturday, November 1, the pair took out the Melbourne Stakes (10f); on Tuesday, November 4, they won the Melbourne Cup (2 miles).
A gentle rider who hated to use the whip, Pike was a wonderful judge of pace, and it was said he could secure a “tremendous effort from a horse through his masterly control and rare balance”.
My very good friend the late Alan Chittick BVSc has compiled a gifted encomium to Jim Pike entitled “Jim Pike – The Master. His Life and Times 1892 – 1969”. ISBN 0-646-41321-X.
“Jim Pike was a jockey with a unique talent, and a natural affinity with horses, who rode in the years between 1906 and 1936. However, by the time he was 21, he had grown too big to follow his chosen profession and drifted for a few years before returning to race-riding, and managed to continue until he was 43, but only achieved this by the most prolonged and desperate measures to reduce his weight”.
“Pike reached his peak as a rider in the late 1920’s, an era in which his name, as the rider of Phar Lap, was a household word together with other notable Australians such as Don Bradman and Kingsford Smith”.
“Poor health, as a result of the stringent measures to which he had subjected his body in order to continue riding, and financial troubles due to his poor judgement in money matters, marred his later years”.
“Nevertheless, apart from his outstanding riding ability, his reputation for loyalty, honesty, and integrity in an industry which has from time to time had suspicions cast upon it, is both enduring and legendary”.