Jockey deaths in Moree district honoured in books overlapping turf history

IT is just over two years since champion bush jockey Darren Jones was killed in a tragic race fall at Warialda – the second death at the track in less than 50 years.

In 1970, apprentice Ian Roberts was killed at Warialda races when his mount Astrea fell and brought down four other runners.

Moree jockeys Noel Colvin and Ronnie Ford were hospitalised however both resumed successful riding careers after the shocking accident.

Roberts, apprenticed to Arthur Gore, was just 18 years of age.

The names Darren Jones and Ian Roberts are now mere statistics in a sport that is littered with deaths and horrific race-fall injuries.

And sadly, the Moree district has its share of race-fall deaths at far-flung meetings across the black-soil plains, especially pre-World War II.

Jockeys Denis Twohig, George Bonnor, James Matthews, George Montgomery, Hilton Crane, David Prain, William McInnes, Athol Hunt and Edward Burgess were all killed doing what they did best – riding racehorses.

Celebrated jockey Darren Jones was killed in a race fall at Warialda in 2017. He is commemorated, along with more than 950 other fallen riders, in the fine book, Their Last Ride – The Fallen Jockeys of Australia.

Denis Twohig was killed at Moree races in 1895 and less than six months later 16-year-old James Matthews lost his life when his mount Outcast fell in the Trial Stakes.

George Bonnor died not long after his mount collided with a tree at the Noona Vale course at Talmoi, Garah in 1908.

The 27-year-old jockey is buried on the property.

George Montgomery was killed on the Moree track in 1888 and 20-year-old Hilton Crane, a second cousin to then-Moree Race Club president John Crane, died minutes after his horse struck a post during the last race at Rowena in 1922.

David Prain, a 30-year-old jockey from Dubbo, died the day after his mount Ednaville fell in a five-horse race at Moree in 1915.

At a stewards’ inquiry James McLaughlin, the rider of race winner Hadleigh, was charged with foul riding and the following day faced Moree Police Court and was charged with killing Prain.

After the court heard accounts of the incident from fellow riders Prain was completely exonerated when all evidence was presented.

Eight years earlier 27-year-old Walgett jockey William McInnes was killed instantly when his mount Horatius collided with a post at the Bulyeroi course, about 25 miles south-west of Mallawa.

In 1943 amateur rider Athol Hunt of Goondiwindi died after a race fall at Boggabilla when his mount Yukhai crashed into a furlong marker and Edward Burgess, a Moree taxi driver, was killed at an unregistered race meeting at Terry Hie Hie in 1917.

Their names, as well as nearly 940 others are listed in an incredibly-researched book published late last year.

Their Last Ride – The Fallen Jockeys of Australia, by John Payne, is a compelling insight with brief stories on every Australian jockey that has tragically lost their life while riding a racehorse.

Following eight years of painstaking research, Payne has recorded all jockeys’ deaths and, fittingly, in memory of all of them, written a small piece about each rider.

 He has condensed all information into a truly magnificent soft-covered book of 630 pages.

“The purpose of the book is not to reflect grief or sorrow on the part of those who have given their lives to riding racehorses, but rather to reflect on them as individuals, and to honour them for the ultimate sacrifice each one has made,” Payne said.  

“There are very few occupations where an ambulance follows you about while you’re working, highlighting the dangers of their profession.

“I have endeavoured to acknowledge all the jockeys for who they were, and record for the sake of history the circumstances of their death, rather than just a clinical, one-dimensional memorial that simply shows ‘name, date and place of death’,” he said.

Tributes to the aforementioned riders killed in the Moree district are also given in the soon-to-be-released book The Triangle, which chronicles the history of bush racing in the Moree district since the mid-1800s.

The Triangle aims to raise funds to help Moree and District Historical Society refurbish its new headquarters at the old Moree Lands Office.

The book is written in a timeline format from 1865 with entries for every year from 1900 through to 2018.

There are an added 24 feature articles, three of which were written by Moree journalist Georgina Poole, as well as countless photos and images.

Their Last Ride – The Fallen Jockeys of Australia can be purchased on-line at the book’s website,

The Triangle will be launched at this year’s Golden Triangle picnic racing carnival at Moree, Mallawa and Talmoi and afterwards available for sale at various Moree retail outlets and business houses.

The Triangle has been published at no cost to Moree and District Historical Society after generous donations were received from Moree Plains Shire Council, picnic race clubs at Moree, Mallawa and Talmoi, member for Northern Tablelands Adam Marshall and Moree golfing greats, The Desperates.

It is hoped between $30,000 and $50,000 will be raised through sales of The Triangle.

Mail orders will also be taken by Moree and District Historical Society after the book is launched.

Words and Image: Bill Poulos

Bush racing’s Golden Triangle key dates

Moree picnic races: Saturday, May 25

Mallawa picnic races: Saturday, June 8

Talmoi picnic races: Saturday, June 22