Veteran jockey Robert Thompson turned 60 in May and celebrated his milestone birthday by riding at the Scone Cup Carnival over two days.
There aren’t many jockeys like Thompson. By the time they turn 60, the majority have turned to other careers, both inside and outside racing.
The lucky ones retire from the sport by choice, while others are forced out because of injury or losing the battle against weight gain.
“The majority of jockeys will go through a period of ‘what am I going to do now?’ [when they quit], an abandonment period,” former jockey Jason Swift said.
Mr Swift has a pedigree as solid as the best thoroughbred’s – he’s the grandson of racing royalty in Arthur “Scobie” Breasley, and the son of a British jockey and trainer. These days, though, Mr Swift is a director of real estate company Hodges, in bayside Melbourne.
“I went through that year of basically of doing nothing,” he said.
“My other grandfather dabbled in real estate, and someone said ‘you’d make a good real estate agent’. I’ve had no second thoughts.”
By contrast, Libby Hopwood has stayed in the industry she loves. A horrific fall in 2014 where she suffered severe concussion and a broken collar bone forced Ms Hopwood into retirement as a jockey.
Now she works as a Sky Racing form analyst and has her own eventer, Zorrin. While Zorrin is not a racehorse (“If I fall off him, it’s because he’s fallen over”), working with him is as close as Hopwood can get to racing without actually lining up in the starting gates.
“I’ve often tried to explain it to non-racing people,” she said. “Horse people understand it – there’s nothing that compares to building that partnership with a horse.”
Learning that she could never ride in a race again due to her injuries was traumatic for Ms Hopwood.
“It obviously took me a long time,” she said. “I gave 10 years to riding and I didn’t want to walk away from that.”
Accepting the Sky Racing job was a no-brainer for Ms Hopwood, as it meant she could stay in an industry she loves.
It’s stories like Ms Hopwood’s that form the reasoning for LUCRF Super to partner with the National Jockeys Trust.
“We are proud to be the name behind every Australian jockey,” LUCRF Super chief executive Charlie Donnelly said.
Former promising young jockey Dylan Dunn is another who has carved out a media career since deciding he could no longer make a race rider’s weight.
Two other famous names to have stayed in the industry are dual Cox Plate-winner Greg Childs (who manufactures safety vests for horse riders) and champion Darren Gauci, now the apprentice school coach at Racing Victoria.