Ken Russell | Australian Jockey
Ken Russell Prematurely Ended Career Saw Him Winning Nearly 2,000 Races With Over 10,000 Starts
No one would dispute that galloping thoroughbreds in close proximity to others doing the same thing is inherently extremely dangerous.
The story of Ken Russell provides a prime illustration of this reality.
Ken Russell was born not long after the hostilities of World War II ceased. He was building an enviable record for himself when a racing accident at Rosehill in 1993 cost him his life.
On that day, he had posted a win aboard Whivory, and the day’s final race offered him an opportunity to which he was no stranger: the 315 th two-win meet of his career.
He was slated to ride Tuig in that race and to Russell, it probably seemed like a routine part of his job.
Calamity occurred when Tuig and Russell were crashed into by Sonar Bar and the devastation was total-both Russell and Tuig lost their lives. Russell’s wife, Carol was in attendance and witnessed her 42-year-old husband dying before her eyes.
Ken Russell had had an exceptionally productive career to that point. At a meeting at Thangool, a small bush track in Queensland some 600 kilometres northwest of Brisbane, he swept the card.
That early sweep was to be a precursor to 24 meetings where he won four times and 106 where he would win thrice. During that time period he accumulated 14 jockeys’ premierships of one variety or another.
Winning Almost 2000 Races
He was so dominant at Queensland’s Gold Coast track that he was known as the “King of the Coast,” and he also won multiple races in the other major racing stops of the world, particularly in Asia and Africa.
He had also acquired a reputation for exceptional competence at handling young horses, with two wins in the Magic Millions to his credit as evidence.
Other major wins in Russell’s resume were the Prime Minister’s Cup which he won riding Avitt, the Queensland Derby on Hidden Rhythm, two Queensland Oaks courtesy of Around The World and Triumphal Queen, and it what would be considered his most important victory, The AJC Doncaster Handicap that he won riding Merimbula Bay.
Russell had as his favourite race by far the GCTC Golden Nugget. He was to attempt that event twelve times and win seven for his efforts. That is the race that has become known as the Magic Millions, so his prowess handling juveniles is indisputable. He won this race consecutively in 1981 and 1982, missed the victory the following year, and then ran off three consecutive in 1984-86.
Last Two Came In 1990 & 1991
As is the case with many jockeys, genetics and environment played a prominent role in Ken Russell’s chosen career. His father was a jockey right after World War II who was still riding in 1958 when he won the Central Queensland Derby and produced 14 wins from his time aboard Meghesti. He switched to training after a fall and remained in that role for 30 years.
He would have been a proud papa indeed when his son Ken won the Rockhampton Cup riding a horse he had trained, Panard.
Russell’s life ending crash was not his first by any stretch. In the middle of 1987, he crashed while riding Killer Khan. That incident cost him a kidney and some broken ribs, but he missed only three months of riding.
Liked By Punters Everywhere
Punters were quite fond of Ken Russell for his consistency and production.
It was said that his presence could cause his horse’s odds to shorten, but on the occasion of his victory in the Doncaster Handicap, he produced a windfall for any who had backed him at the 33/1 odds at which he went off.
The Gold Coast Turf Club holds a race in his honour each May which is restricted to the two-year-olds on which Ken Russell was so proficient, and any visitors to the town of Monto, not far from where he was born, will find a statue dedicated to the memory of this great hero of the Gold Coast racing scene