Jim Cassidy steps off the presentation stage as the shadows lengthen over Royal Randwick after he’s won the Sydney Cup aboard Grand Marshal.
Cassidy has got Chris Waller’s five-year-old home – somehow, as he does – at $41.
In a $1.6 million group1 race.
After failing to secure a ride last week on the first day of The Championships, in any race. After being written off at the age of 52 by just about every trainer and owner in the land since resuming from a month-long suspension.
Ladies and gentlemen … Quiet please … Let’s give Pumper the floor. He has something to say.
“I could be as good as Moreira,” Cassidy tells Fairfax Media of Brazilian counterpart Joao Moreira, who has been widely touted of late as the best jockey in the world. “I don’t have to be as good as Moreira. They have to be as good as me. I’ve ridden over 100 group 1 winners. I’ve got nothing to prove to one owner, one trainer, not my wife, not me. My wife knows how good I am. So do my kids. So do I. It comes down to opportunities.”
But wait. There’s more …
“If you’re sent Cowra to write stories, how many people are going to read that? If Joao Moreira were here, having to ride the horses I’ve ridden for the last month, he wouldn’t have ridden a winner. Neither would Hughey Bowman. Neither would’ve Damien Oliver. And neither would Douglas Whyte. Or Zac Purton. I’m telling you, if you’re riding horses at 20 to 1, every day of the week … I had to ask the ambulance driver to slow down last week because I nearly ran into the back of him four times.”
Of all the characters in this ever-changing and fickle business, the one constant is the loveable and huggable rogue that is Jimmy Cassidy. When he returned to the winner’s circle after the Sydney Cup, he celebrated like he might’ve as the young, brash Kiwi kid with the mullet who arrived in Sydney after winning the Melbourne Cup on Kiwi in 1983.
For the record, he won his first Sydney Cup (3200m) aboard Marooned in 1986, and his second on County Tyrone in 2006. The distance between those wins explains his longevity.
But this one arguably meant more.
“Who’s the f—ing Magic Man now?” he asked, in reference to the nickname for Moreira as he came back into the winner’s gate.
When Cassidy returned to the jockeys’ room, each of his peers hugged him before they went out for the main race of the day, the $4 million Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
“You’re a champion,” boomed Glen Boss, a champion himself.
That Cassidy didn’t have a ride in the Queen Elizabeth explains why he was so ecstatic after winning the Sydney Cup. Not that long ago, he was the most coveted and sought-after hoop in the land.
But time stands still for no man. The last man it would stand for is a jockey. After a suspension earlier this year, Cassidy has lost rides on the superstars for the superstar stables he once commanded.
Millionaire adman John Singleton has stuck thick. In some respects, so has leading trainer Chris Waller. But, of late, the big rides have been scarce.
If someone told you a short time ago that Cassidy’s ride on Grand Marshal – who Waller only decided to run on Tuesday – would be only his third group 1 ride for the carnival, they’d have told you: “Impossible”.
Consequently, Cassidy didn’t ride last week, on one of the biggest days of the autumn carnival. Instead, he spent the day “drinking stubbies” and enjoying a rare Saturday off with his wife Vicky and daughter Piper.
Did it hurt to not be riding?
“It does – only because I love doing it,” Cassidy said. “So it means an enormous amount to me to win today. I have nothing to prove.”
The wisest and oldest judges describe Cassidy as a “freak”.
He shares records with George Moore and Roy Higgins, but few jockeys beat Cassidy for longevity.
He’s the oldest man in the jockey room. It would be difficult to find one who’s fitter, too.
Yet the inevitable question hangs in the air: how much longer?
“The day I get sick of doing it, I will walk away,” he says. “I won’t need a trainer or anyone to tell me. I’ll just say, ‘F–k the lot of you, I’ve had enough, I am leaving’. But the game makes me want to kick – not winners.”
After the race, Cassidy and Moreira walked out of the stewards’ room together. They were there over a minor incident at the start of the race.
“Mr Cassidy,” said Moreira.
“Call me Jimmy,” quipped Cassidy. “I’m not that old.”
“I wish I can be that good when I am that old,” Moreira said, the ultimate sign of respect for the man who still has all the magic.