When Des O’Keeffe stepped down from his position as Chairman of the Australian Jockeys’ Association last week, he would have been able to look back with some satisfaction at the integral role he has played, not only in determining important racing issues, but also in terms of the influence he brought to his role and the unconditional support he gave to so many people on a personal level.
People like O’Keeffe do not go about their work looking for thanks or praise, but it is always nice to be appreciated … particularly when, at times, the job you are doing can be a particularly demanding one, drawing on all of your skills in a very concentrated manner.
Multiple Group 1 winning jockey Damian Browne … who, most notably, brought international glory to Australia with his win on Buffering in the Al Quoz Sprint at Meydan in Dubai, put that appreciation from the jockey’s point of view verywell when, writing in his personal blog on HRO, he said the following.
“Des O’Keeffe was the best Chairman and General Manager of a Jockeys’ Association I have ever seen.
“He was outstanding … whether it was dealing with an injury situation (or worse) or handling something that happened or needed to be sorted out … anywhere in Australia … Des was the first on the phone, or he would even get on a plane to go and talk to the families concerned or the different parties if there was an issue.
“I know he was like that with me and I know of a lot of other instances where he has done that.
“Des is a very genuine person. In the job Des was very hands-on. He was very proactive. He was very approachable. He was very easy to talk to. He would fight for jockeys’ rights. He was very knowledgeable. He knew his stuff.
“Des also was very good at finding the middle ground in the state-to-state discussions. I guess it is a bit like the Prime Minister having to deal with the State Premiers. Not everyone is always going to agree from the different states … because what is good for riders in one state might not fit as well for riders in another state.
“It can be tricky fighting for something in circumstances where some want it, some don’t … but I always found Des to be very level-headed in his approach to those matters, which is why he was almost always able to negotiate some common ground.
“It goes without saying that Des has done a lot for the jockeys in the time that he has been with the Australian Jockeys’ Association.
“I know a lot of jockeys are very thankful to him for everything he has done.”
If you listen hard enough, you might hear the call of other jockeys echoing Browne’s sentiments.
Now, by his own description, ‘a man of leisure’, O’Keeffe can be content knowing that he leaves a job well done!