Harold Badger Australian Jockey
Harold Badger Remembered For Dedication That Borders On Obsessive
Success at riding thoroughbreds often brings along with it a certain notoriety that has proved problematic for the temperaments of more than one jockey, but Harold Badger (1907-1981) managed to avoid that fate, quietly going about the business of steering to a degree worthy of induction into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame.
He came from a large family and was the third of eight children. Two of his brothers, likewise diminutive in stature had roles as jockeys as well.
Harold Badger got his start as an apprentice to Richard Baulfield, a Flemington trainer who helped lay the foundation for Badger’s future exploits. Badger was only 14 when he began his career, at the urging of many who saw his potential.
Apprenticed Until 1925
Harold Badger was an apprentice up until 1925 when he won South Australia’s Adelaide Cup whilst riding Stralia, a brown gelding with ties to both Wallace and Carbine. Baulfield then encouraged Badger to remain in South Australia to further hone his craft.
His career stalled somewhat during that period, where he served as the number two in Lou Robertson’s stable.
Harold Badger Goes Free Lance
Feeling that he was not getting the quality of mounts that would produce significant wins, he decided to venture out on his own in 1936, where he produced a startling win riding Northwind in the Caulfield Cup, setting a record for longest price winner in the history of the race by way of winning at 66/1 against.
Harold Badger And Ajax
That phenomenal win produced what Badger felt had been lacking, quality horses, when he was paired with none other than Ajax.
That pairing resulted in a performance that was nothing short of remarkable, regardless of what era is concerned. The three year period betwixt 1937 and 1940 found Badger and Ajax winning 30 significant victories and seven places from 37 jumps. In a prime example of the irony that often surfaces in horse racing, it was not the mind-boggling win at 66/1 against in the Caulfield Cup for which Badger is most remembered, but the occasion where he and Ajax lost at Rosehill despite going off 40/1 on that served to enhance the fame of both.
Harold Badger is also remembered for dedication that borders on the obsessive. The event this time was when Badger learned of a critical racing accident at Geelong in April of 1938 that resulted in a critical injury being sustained by his brother.
He flew from Sydney to Melbourne to be with his brother, but returned to Sydney the following day to fulfill his obligations at Randwick.
Careless Ride Charge
The week following the accident, he rode three winners, but was penalized by the stewards for what they deemed careless riding. He received a month-long suspension, but it is incredible to consider as careless the riding of a man who won the Victoria jockeys’ premiership for five consecutive seasons from 1938-43.
Harold Badger himself did not escape misfortune, but it was an automobile, not a horse racing accident, that sidelined him for approximately six months, but he recovered and fulfilled his vow to win another premiership, this one coming in 1947-48.
His last jockeys’ premiership came when he rode Columnist to the winning post in that year’s Caulfield Cup, Badger’s second victory in that prestigious race. It was a subsequent fall from that very horse that caused Badger’s vision to falter, forcing his retirement in late 1948.
Over the course of his 23 years in the saddle, Harold Badger won nearly 1000 races, over 100 of those coming in feature events that preceded the current classification system. He won the Newmarket Handicap thrice, the Doncaster and Epson Handicaps twice to go along with his Caulfield Cup victories.
The Cox Plate and Melbourne Cup managed to elude Harold Badger, but the same could be said of many a great jockey before or since.
Badger was rejected for military service during World War II, but the record shows that he did volunteer to participate, but the small stature that serves a jockey well can work against a soldier.
True to his nature of not seeking the spotlight, Harold Badger maintained a quiet life after he retired from racing and the next 33 years that followed leading up to his death in 1981.