Ron Dufficy has been a track work rider, senior jockey, form analyst, newspaper journalist, radio personality and TV pundit. He has also ridden some of the best horses in the business and managed several top jockeys too.
We were lucky to catch up with him recently to discuss his career and learn more about the man we all know as ‘The Duff’.
When did you realise you wanted to be a jockey. Was racing in the family?
Yes it was. My father and grandfather all followed horse racing. I have been around racing all my life. I think my grandfather was the first person to relay prices off the race tracks at the time, even although it was not legal. He would run the prices off the racetrack to the SP bookies. I had always been involved in horse racing even before I left school.
You did your apprenticeship with Mal Barnes at Randwick. How did that come about and what was it like back then?
I actually did my apprenticeship with Bart Cummings. I started with Bart however he got rubbed out over the Lloyd Boy incident and Mal Barnes took over his stable and when that suspension was lifted I ended up going with Mal because he was a good man with his apprentices. He had some champion apprentices all the way through his career. The opportunities were going to be better with Mal than they were going to be with Bart Cummings with his big owners.
You won the Black Opal as an apprentice on Beans. Tell us about the day and run?
John Singleton was very loyal to me in those days. I was a three kilo claiming apprentice and he put me in a Black Opal and she was a high profile runner in the race. It was all a bit numb. I took her down on the float on my own and drove her down there and looked after her. She arrived in good shape and we were all confident until it rained the night before. Singo still hasn’t forgiven me as he was going to have a real big bet on the day but when it rained he halved his bet. She was a real good filly to me.
When you came out of your time you rode for TJ Smith and Bart Cummings. How did that opportunity arise?
I wasn’t such a hot jockey but I was always regarded as a really good track work jockey and TJ and Bart always used me. TJ would look after me and give me a winner a month. Look I have ridden all the champions at track work like Kingston Town, Red Anchor and all Bart’s champions as well.
What were TJ and Bart like to ride for?
It was different. TJ was a hard worker and would get them really fit on the track while Bart was slow and steady and peak them up for a race and obviously his record in the big races speak for themselves.
Who was the best horse you rode during your time?
In a race it would be Belmura Lad and at track work I would have to say even although Kingston Town was a champion we never saw the best of a horse called Red Anchor. Red Anchor was just something special. We didn’t see enough of him and he was an absolute super star.
Who was the toughest competitor in the jockey ranks?
In my day it would have been probably Mick Dittman and Ron Quinton. They were hard men and fair men.
Tell us about Pablos Pulse in the Group 2 Warwick Stakes at 500/1 beating Campaign King.
I was down to ride him that day and I think he had 47kg which is a very light weight and I was struggling to make the weight on him. I was trying and also cheating a bit however I ended up saying I couldn’t make the weight so said I was sick so I didn’t get fined.
When and why did you decide to give racing away?
I broke my shoulder when a horse of Graeme Rogerson’s snapped its shoulder and I had done all the nerves in my shoulder and at the time Jimmy Cassidy said to me why don’t we try this management business. I also had a little bit of an in with the radio to get a bit of a gig with them. So I took a new direction in racing and do the media thing and also managing jockeys. I think I was the first jockey manager in Australia
You became a jockey’s manager and looked after the likes of Jimmy and Larry Cassidy. Was it a tough gig?
Yes it is a tough gig. A lot of hours in fact more than what you would think. From five in the morning when the trainers get out of bed and if they get out after a late dinner they still want to ring you so you are on call from pretty much 5am until midnight. It is not easy at all. I did it for a good ten to fifteen years and had success doing it. I had Jimmy and Larry Cassidy, Lenny Beasley and a few others like Brian York.
How did you get the job with Sky Racing?
Firstly I got the radio job through Ray Warren who was good to me in those days. Sky racing was Graeme McNiece and he identified that he wanted me on Racing Retro and it all evolved from there. He gave me a chance and I am still there.
What about writing for the Telegraph?
That just appeared as well. That was a little job there for a bit in Sunday’s paper. When they asked me to do it I had no idea about journalism in those days and probably still don’t but I had good help in those days. They sent me out with a girl called Sally McMillan who was a big Telegraph reporter and she used to put the stories together for me and taught me a lot in the first six to eight months.
The boys still help me along now. Ray Thomas is a good man.
Who should we be keeping an eye on this spring that could produce the goods?
Kermadec. Kermadec is typical Chris Waller. He has looked after him. He took him to Melbourne as a three year old and he won the Carbine. Typical Bart Cummings style taking your good horse to Melbourne in the Spring and giving him one or two runs and then tick him over in the Autumn and win a good race with him then have him ready for the Spring. Chris Waller has not made a mistake with him. Unless there is something special with these International horses for the Cox Plate I think it is his.
What is the Number One rule when doing the form for a race?
Trust yourself. Trust your eye. I think you can get to technical in this business with sectional times; obviously they are relevant; but if you just get to know your horses and watch your replays and trust your eye. The clock is not everything. I have had a lot of success going against the grain and doing things that way.