The Queensland racing industry is today mourning the loss of Hall of Fame jockey Darby McCarthy who has passed away.
The trailblazing hoop, who achieved widespread acclaim during the 1950s and 1960s, rode more than 1000 winners during a decorated career including three Stradbroke Handicaps, a Brisbane Cup and the Doomben 10,000.
In Sydney, he won the 1969 AJC Derby on Divide And Rule and the Epsom with Broker's Tip on the same day before riding across Europe including Paris and Royal Ascot.
A proud descendant of the Mithika people, McCarthy was one of 13 children and was born in the sandhills outside of Cunnamulla in western Queensland.
Having left school at the age of nine to work on a station, McCarthy’s passion for horses soon developed and his natural skills were recognised before enrolling in in Queensland’s jockey school when he was 11.
He would go on to be crowned the champion of the Queensland apprentice jockey school in 1960 and 1961.
“I first met Darby when he was part of an acknowledgement to country ceremony many years ago when it was a rare way to mark the beginning of an official function,” Racing Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said.
“He was a real boy from the bush whose talent as a jockey surpassed much of anything our racing industry had ever seen.
“We will never truly understand the many barriers he overcame to become one of the finest athletes ever produced in Queensland, if not the nation.
“My thoughts are with his family and friends and this very sad time.”
McCarthy won his first race at a Flying Doctors race meeting in Thargomindah – by six lengths – before steering Mullala (1963), Cele’s Image (1964) and Castanea (1966) to victories in the Stradbroke.
In 2004, McCarthy became just the fourth jockey to be inducted into the Queensland Hall of Fame, following in the footsteps of Mick Dittman, George Moore and Neville Sellwood, before being awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for his services to racing and his work with indigenous youth in 2016.
He spent his final years on the Darling Downs and continued to serve as a role model, particularly for the Indigenous community, and was inducted in the Aboriginal and Islander Sports Hall of Fame.
Racing Queensland CEO Brendan Parnell said McCarthy’s contribution to the racing industry transcended his feats on the track.
“Darby McCarthy’s feats in and out of the saddle are legendary as he blazed a trail across Queensland before taking on the world,” Mr Parnell said.
“He inspired a generation of athletes that anything was possible and continued to serve as a role model in more recent years.
“He thoroughly deserves his position in the Hall of Fame and he will be sorely missed.”
In the Darby McCarthy: Against all Odds book, Olympic gold medallist Cathy Freeman, who would stay with McCarthy’s family while she attended boarding school in Toowoomba, reflected on the legendary jockey.
"I learnt some precious lessons from Darby who taught me in his own charismatic and crazy way what it takes to be a real contender, to rise above everything and everyone else to be your very best,” Freeman said.
Earlier this year, the Toowoomba Turf Club hosted the inaugural ‘Darby McCarthy Raceday’ and used the meeting to raise funds to provide leadership guidance to Indigenous communities in the South West Queensland through sport.
Racing Queensland extends its sincere condolences to the McCarthy family.