Roy Higgins once said if it wasn’t for him Bart Cummings would only have 10 Melbourne Cups.
The 12-time Cup winning trainer’s reply was that without him, Higgins would have none.
Higgins, who was aboard Cummings’ first Melbourne Cup winner Light Fingers in 1965 and Red Handed two years later, died in Melbourne on Saturday aged 75, after a short illness.
He joined the master trainer as an inaugural member of the Australian Racing Hall of Fame in 2001 after being inducted into the Australian Sporting Hall of Fame in 1987, four years after increasing weight forced him into retirement.
Higgins was an 11-time Melbourne premiership winner and one of a handful of jockeys to ride the winners of racing’s grand slam, Golden Slipper, Cox Plate, Caulfield Cup and Melbourne Cup.
In recent years, Higgins had delved into racehorse syndication and just a week ago, one of his horses Bring Me The Maid won at Flemington to prompt talk of a Golden Slipper start, on the same day there was a race run in his honour.
Higgins had been in hospital for a few weeks, suffering from a variety of issues including diabetes that had plagued him in recent years.
Known as The Professor for his superior skills in the saddle, Higgins began his career at Deniliquin in 1953.
He soon made his way to Melbourne where he won his first premiership in the 1964-65 season.
In 1972, Higgins dominated the Victoria Racing Club’s autumn carnival, winning 12 races over three days.
The news of Higgins’ death prompted an outpouring on Twitter with many jockeys, friends and racegoers expressing their admiration.
“Way to soon Roy. Champion. RIP” three-time Melbourne Cup winner Glen Boss posted.
Group One winning rider Peter Robl, who is nursing a career-threatening injury, paid tribute to a fellow rider from the bush saying “RIP Roy Higgins as far as I know he was the best jock to ever come out of the Riverina.”