The racing industry has been deeply saddened by the passing of three-time Melbourne Cup winning jockey, Jack Purtell at the age of 95 this morning.
Winner of the 1947 (Hiraji), 1953 (Wodalla) and 1954 (Rising Fast) Melbourne Cups and rider of over 1700 race winners, Purtell clinched seven jockey premierships in Melbourne between 1946 and 1962. He secured the Cox Plate on four occasions (1950, 1951, 1954 and 1956) and the Caulfield Cup as a 20 year old in 1941.
Having commenced his riding career in 1936, he was an outstanding horseman riding many feature race winners through the 1940s, 50s and 60s. Jack was the best in his craft in a highly competitive era for riders and universally respected within the thoroughbred racing industry. He rode eight winners over the 1947 Spring Meeting (Melbourne Cup Carnival) and was connected with many top horses including the great Comic Court who he partnered in 19 of his race wins.
VRC Chief Executive, Simon Love said the racing industry has lost one of its true legends.
“Jack Purtell’s achievements are quite extraordinary,” said Mr Love.
“He raced in an era which included such great riders as Darby Munro, Bill Williamson, Ron Hutchinson, Scobie Breasley, Roy Higgins, George Moore, Neville Sellwood and Harold Badger, to name a few.
“He achieved the ultimate in winning the 1947 Melbourne Cup aboard Hiraji only to add to this tally in 1953 (Wodalla) and 1954 (Rising Fast). From all reports he was unlucky not have ridden two more Cup winners.
“He rode successfully in Europe, winning the 1964 Irish Oaks and the 1965 English Oaks.
“During the late 1940s and 1950s he really had few peers,” Mr Love added.
Purtell was involved in one of the most exceptional racing incidents at Flemington with the staging of the famous triple dead heat recorded on Derby Day in the 1956 Hotham Handicap.
He rode Fighting Force triple dead-heating with Ark Royal (Reg Heather) and Pandie Sun (Bill Williamson).
On retirement in 1966, Purtell joined the VRC Stewards Panel where the industry was able to tap into his race riding insights for a period of 15 years. In recent years he lived on the Gold Coast but still kept and interest in racing. He was a gentleman of the turf.
The VRC will acknowledge Purtell’s passing with on-course flags altered to half-mast for this weekend’s Super Saturday meeting. Jockeys will wear black armbands in Race 3 as a mark of respect.
Jack Purtell career highlights
· 1700 race winners
· Australian Racing Hall of Fame Inductee (2004)
· Melbourne Cup – 1947, 1953 and 1954
· Caulfield Cup – 1941
· W.S Cox Plate – 1950, 1951, 1954 and 1956
· Rode the great Comic Court in 19 of his race wins
· Rode internationally, winning the 1964 Irish Oaks and the 1965 English Oaks
· Involved in the famous tripe dead hHeat at Flemington on Derby Day 1956 including: Flighting Force (Jack Purtell), Ark Royal (Reg Heather) and Pandie Sun (Bill Williamson)