I grew up hearing about Melbourne Cup stories from my Dad. He was a bookmaker in the North Western NSW town of Moree. I well remember the story of Peter St Albans. He was the 13 year old aboriginal jockey who rode Briseis (a 3yr old filly) to win the 1876 Melbourne Cup in one of the biggest Melbourne Cup fields (33 starters) of all times.
The story goes Peter St Albans was actually only eleven years. But it was declared he was 13 as this was the youngest age allowable for jockeys at that time. Outstanding jockey Tom Hales (The Hugh Bowman of the era) was the Briseis’ usual jockey. But Hales could not make the allocated weight (39 kilos) for the Melbourne Cup. He told the owner, Mr Wilson of St Albans Stud, Geelong, that Peter should ride Briseis as in the Cup as she performed well for him in training.
Peter rode a great race beating Sybil and Timothy into second and third places. The time for the race was 3.36.25. The Australian Sketcher of 1876 reported “The jockey Peter St Albans, was carried around on the shoulders of the punters and was the hero of the day.”
Both Peter St Albans and Briseis have become racing legends, and Briseis is regarded as one of the greatest mares foaled in Australia. In a space of six days in November 1876 Briseis won the Derby, the Melbourne Cup and The Oaks. A feat never achieved before or equalled since.
At 19 years of age, after a race fall, Peter apparently turned training horses under the name of Peter Bowden. He went on to become a successful trainer. Peter died in 1898 at the age of 35. It is said that he had one of the biggest funerals ever seen at Geelong.
I have had this story baked into my memory for years. But recent Internet research I conducted suggests that Peter St Albans was not of aboriginal descent. Apparently Peter’s surname was give as St Albans at Breisis’ jockey probably to cover up the under age problem. At that time Aboriginals were traditionally named after the town or station they worked on.
However, I do know that The Geelong Racing Club each year award the Peter St Albans Trophy to the champion jockey at Geelong (most wins at that circuit). The winners include: Nash Rawiller; Kerrin McEvoy; Noel Callow; Brad Rawiller; Nicholas Hall; Craig Newitt; Dean Yendall; Damien Oliver and Michael Walker.
Every year Max Hitchins (aka MelbourneCupMax) publishes an eBook titled “How To Pick The Winner Of The Melbourne Cup.” His system has worked for 25 out of the last 30 years. See: PickTheCupWinner.com.au