Roy Higgins Australian Jockey
Roy Higgins - The Professor
One of the names that must be mentioned very early on in any conversation concerning the greatest jockeys of Australian thoroughbred racing history is that of Roy Higgins MBE.
He exhibited near-virtual domination on the tracks during the 60s and 70s while waging a constant battle with his weight over the span of his thirty year career between the years of 1953 to 1983, where his typically tipped the scales beyond 53.5 kilograms.
Roy Higgins 'The Professor'
Higgins, also known as “The Professor,” was born June 5 1938 at Koondrook, Victoria, near the border of New South Wales and approximately equidistant between Canberra to the east and Adelaide to the west.
Roy Higgins took his first ride as an apprentice for Jim Watters in 1953, riding Cherry Girl at Denliquin, not far from home. She was one that apparently objected to young Higgins’s weight, because she finished dead last, although hopefully much fitter for having lugged Higgins around, if nothing more.
Within two months, Statutory dealt with hefty Higgins, providing him with his first win. From there, he won apprentice jockey premierships in the environs of New South Wales and northeast Victoria, where he competed almost 300 times.
Not long after, his first appearance at Flemington produced a two-win meeting courtesy of Gay Saxon and Triage, where his cerebral riding tactics inspired a racing reporter to dub Higgins with his Professor moniker.
Roy Higgins And Bart Cummings
Roy Higgins produced the kind of results that attracted the top trainers and their top mounts. Higgins would be associated with Bart Cummings in time to supply the trainer with Melbourne Cup wins in 1965 and 1967, aboard Light Fingers and Red Handed, respectively.
He scored a Caulfield Cup in 1969, riding Big Philou to an apparent second place finish before Higgins lodged a successful protest and took the win away from Nausaori.
Earlier, Higgins had taken the 1964 W.S. Cox Plate aboard Sir Dane, a feat he was to repeat eight years subsequent in 1972 when he enjoyed the privilege of steering Gunsynd.
Roy Higgins also took the VRC Derby on four separate occasions to go along with five VRC Oaks and four Blue Diamond Stakes victories.
Those impressive statistics are superseded by no fewer than six wins in the AJC Oaks. Add to that Sydney Cups in 1962 and 1969, 2300 career wins, 106 wins in races that were to become Group 1 in nature or were at the time he won, 11 Melbourne Premierships and a list that continues on and on and it is easy to see that Higgins had few superiors when it came to piloting thoroughbreds.
Roy Higgins And T.J. Smith
Along the line, Roy Higgins worked with T.J. Smith in addition to Cummings and both men are lavish in their praise of Higgins and his contributions to their accomplishments.
Higgins’s horses are a veritable Who’s Who of racing. At one time or another, he was to be found atop Gunsynd, Lelani, Storm Queen and Big Philou.
His partnership with Bart Cummings featured not only near-total dominance on their home tracks, but also considerable success in the international arenas of Africa, Europe and Asia.
The only possible disappointment Higgins might point to, as much out of a sense of modesty as anything else, was that despite many repeated attempts, the race that he coveted as much as any other, the Stradbroke Handicap, managed to escape his grasp.
When he retired in 1984, he remained associated with racing as a consultant in roles related to the selection of broodmares. He also is a much sought after commentator on radio broadcasts of racing.
Roy Higgins has received recognition appropriate to his accomplishments. He is a long time member of the Australian Sporting Hall of Fame and a member of the inaugural class of the Australian Racing Hall of Fame that included Thomas Hales, Scobie Breasley, Darby Munro and George Moore.
Punters who witnessed Higgins’s prodigious feats during the 60s, 70s and early 80s will seldom fail to mention the edge his name on the form provided, even when his mere presence caused a plunge in his mount’s odds.
Roy Higgins high ranking for all-time wins, ability to handle any horse and surgical tactics made his nickname, “The Professor,” one that left no doubt as to its appropriateness.