During spring an old man’s fancy turns to what? Memories; that’s what!
Continuing my Melbourne Cup theme I wanted to feature another local legend. I unashamedly reproduce and recycle the attached from the now defunct Muswellbrook Shire Hall of Fame. I think Wayne Harris might have been the first and only inductee? At least Muswellbrook had one; we don’t! Wayne never actually rode a winner for me. He did run second on a filly called Leith Walk. He was distraught at not winning. The reality was she wouldn’t have run a place without Wayne’s exquisite skill. Wayne was a great favourite of Bert Lillye who I featured earlier in my ‘Blog’.
The featured image shows Wayne returning to scale after a win at Skellatar Park, Muswellbrook on ‘Hoedown’ for master Pat Farrell. Wayne also won a Scone Cup on ‘Hoedown’. His mother was a co-owner.
Muswellbrook Shire Hall of Fame
Classification: Sport – Horse Racing
Wayne Francis Harris was born in Muswellbrook NSW on 17 December 1960.
He was educated at Muswellbrook South Public School and Muswellbrook High School. During that period of his life he was involved in a variety of sports, including junior rugby league, swimming, basketball, boxing, touch football and cycling.
Being small of stature he set his path on becoming a jockey. While still at high school he became an apprentice with Muswellbrook-based trainer Pat Farrell, riding track work at ‘Skellatar Park’ and in races throughout NSW. He later rode horses regularly for Ray Wallace in Newcastle and then for a variety of trainers throughout Australia and overseas.
Wayne’s successes as a jockey were outstanding, record breaking and headline catching.
As an apprentice, he chalked up 558 wins – an Australian record.
In the 1980-1981 racing year he rode 183 winners which set an Australian record for both apprentices and senior riders.
In 1979 he put Muswellbrook on the Australian sporting map when he won the Golden Slipper on Century Miss, trained by the “Cups King” Bart Cummings. Wayne (or “Hairy” as he was affectionately known) became the first apprentice, and the youngest, to win the internationally recognised Golden Slipper.
Then on 1 November 1994, he achieved every jockey’s ambition, he won the Melbourne Cup on Jeune, trained by David Hayes. Muswellbrook was in the national news again.
Wayne’s successes in feature races are indeed impressive. Included in the list are:
Canterbury Guineas; Queen of the Turf Stakes; San Domenico Stakes; Epsom Handicap; Champagne Stakes and the Silver Slipper Stakes.
As a senior jockey, he had 41 feature race wins including two Magic Millions, Doomben Cup, SAJC Derby, AJC Sires Produce Stakes, Theo Marks Quality Handicap, VRC Newmarket Handicap, AJC Queen Elizabeth Stakes Caulfield Guineas etc as well as many on provincial tracks such as the Ipswich Cup, Newcastle Gold Cup and Newmarket Handicap and the Ramornie at Grafton.
Wayne also has success internationally in Ireland, Singapore and Hong Kong.
His first winner was the ‘Duke of Westpoint’ which won a race at Muswellbrook on Melbourne Cup Day, 2 November 1976. Wayne was 15 at the time.
The many successes during his career have been offset by two serious illnesses and numerous falls which resulted in many broken bones. At the age of 22 he was diagnosed with a brain tumour. After surgery he was advised that it was unlikely that he would ride again. By sheer determination and untold courage he made a brilliant comeback, only to be inflicted by another tumour years later. He also returned to riding after this second setback. Since his retirement, he has succeeded in a media career, being a broadcaster on both pay TV and radio.
Wayne was married to Linda, daughter of successful training, Neville Begg. They had two children, Matthew 17 and Aimee 15.
Wayne Harris, who put Muswellbrook on the sporting map, now manages a team of jockeys and works as a TV Racing commentator.
Inducted December 2007