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The Bill Whittaker Book Award for 2020 goes to John H Payne for his ‘splendidly researched book’ Their Last Ride: The Fallen Jockeys of Australia.

“You deserve the congratulations from both myself and the judging panel,” stated R. L., Bob, Charley AO, the former Chairman of Australian Racing Hall of Fame.

“One of the most important features of your prodigious research is that you were able to add so many fallen jockeys to the hitherto established list.”

In acceptance John Payne stated “Their Last Ride was conceived some 10 years ago, following a visit to Caulfield, which revealed a monument to about 320 fallen jockeys. At which time I had recorded over 450, and the discrepancy disappointed me a little.”

“After 8-years of research, I came up with a staggering 938 jockeys who had given their lives to racing-related accidents, and found many discrepancies on the few monuments provided to them.”

“I still hold the view that too little had been done to record these lost lives. I was determined to do something about it and set out to record a little of their lives, not just their deaths.”

This correspondent relates to the entry of apprentice David Green following his fatal race fall in 1980, as I was then performing Assistant Starter duties at the Australian Jockey Club.

After riding Time to Fly to a brilliant victory for trainer, Dr Geoff Chapman, in the previous race, the Vain Welter Handicap, on Canterbury Guineas Day, Saturday, March 8th, apprentice jockey, David Green, was aboard Bold Rachel in the next and last event of the day, the Birthday Card Handicap.

With about 700 metres still to travel, the 19-y-o suffered severe head injuries after the mare fell, with young Green being struck on the head by one of her hooves while she struggled to rise.

The extremely popular and talented young rider, after being examined on course by the STC doctor, was rushed by ambulance to Westmead Hospital where he died the following Monday.

Hailing from 180 Hawker Street, Quirindi in NSW, Green was apprenticed to Theo Green, no relation, a master trainer of apprentice riders, who had tutored the likes of Ron Quinton, Syd Spinks, Darren Beadman, Malcolm Johnston and many other successful youngsters. Young Green was considered by many to be the equal of the best of them at that stage of his career.

His funeral was conducted in Quirindi on Friday, March 14th, his remains buried in the Lawn Portion of the Quirindi Cemetery.

The Bill Whittaker Book Award is awarded biannually for the best new book on Australian horse racing that ‘adds to the knowledge of Australian racing history, and is well written and well produced.’

Named in honour of prominent racing journalist and writer Bill Whittaker, 1929-2009, who as a racing historian loved writing on such champions as Bernborough, Tulloch and Kingston Town,

Bill named the mighty Tulloch the best of them all, and was an expert on Phar Lap with his observations and musings on the champion highly renowned.

Bill commenced his journalistic career in harness racing with the former racing paper The Newsletter, before going onto to be ‘trotting writer’ with The Daily Telegraph.

On moving to the Sydney Morning Herald in 1959 he covered both harness and thoroughbred racing, before writing exclusively for the ‘gallops,’ and recording the greats of his time.

Bill Whittaker was a friendly and helpful man, being exceptionally generous to any young writer or racing enthusiast who approached him.

Previous winners of the Bill Whittaker Book Award are –

2010    Keith Paterson for ‘The Master’s Touch’

2012    Jessica Owers for ‘Peter Pan’

2014    John Adams for ‘Over the Hurdles’ and Jessica Owers for ‘Shannon’ as joint winners

2016    Bob Charley for ‘Heroes & Champions’

2018    Ken Linnett for’Tulloch’

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