Billy Cook was one of the greatest Australian jockeys to have ever graced the horse racing scene in the country.
His passion for becoming a jockey was inspired by his previous work of meat delivery. He used to deliver meat by a horse-drawn cart to his father who was a butcher in New South Wales’ Hornsby area. His deliveries were made using an Arab pony, which accorded him the opportunity to have several practise sessions while on duty.
Billy Cook also took a lot of interest in the many race meetings that took place and he made sure that he accompanied the rest of his family members to such meetings. Billy Cook was inducted into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame in the year 2002.He was a winner of six jockeys’ premiership titles in Sydney.
In total, Billy Cook’s time as a jockey saw him ride 2,300 winners. His great achievements on the racecourse saw him participate in races held outside of Australia. For instance, he took part in and won the Bombay Jockey’s Premiership held in India and finished second behind Sir Gordon Richards of England in the year 1950.
He was in India in three different occasions, when he rode for Alec Higgins and also for the Maharajahs of Kolhapur and of Baroda. In England, he managed to have a total of 42 winners during his three month stay in 1949. Two years later, he was elevated even higher after King George VI invited him to ride for him. However, he could not extend his stay in Britain beyond 3 years as a result of the cold weather and his dislike for long distance traveling.
Billy Cook was also fondly referred to as “Last Race Cookie”, a nickname he earned following a period in which he famously won races 13 Saturdays in a succession. He was a gifted rider who knew how to maneuver his way to victory in the last few yards of races; a factor that earned him the nickname, “the Champ”. For instance, the tactic was quite an advantage to him at the Randwick Racecourse which had a steep straight rise.
Some of the prestigious races Billy Cook won included the 1930 Caulfield Cup while riding Amounis, the Melbourne Cup which he won twice, in 1941 and 1945 while riding Skipton and Rainbird respectively, the 1953 Sydney Cup( while riding Carioca) and the CB Fisher Plate while riding Rising Fast. Cook was a six-time winner of Sydney premiership and finished second in 10 other occasions.
Billy Cook started racing on a relatively bad note, when he finished unplaced at the Canterbury Stakes in July 1925. However, he left his first ride (Little Marge) and two months later, he was a winner at Canterbury while riding Pigeon Pie. His next great win was the Sydney Cup of 1929 which he won while riding Crucis. One year later, he won the Caulfield Cup and later on in 1937, he was the winner at Doomben Newmarket.
After having won the Australian Jockey Club (AJC) derby and the 1941 Melbourne Cup while riding Skipton, Cook’s career was on a great run, with wins at the 1942 Victorian Racing Club (VRC) derby of 1942 and the VRC Oaks of 1941. Billy Cook won his next VRC Derby in 1954, after having completed his AJC Derby double earlier in 1946. He was also a double winner of the VRC Oaks races which was confirmed following his 1946 win of the race.
Billy Cook also won the AJC Metropolitans three times, in 1939, in 1949 and 1953. His other treble was the Mooney Valley Gold Cup which he won in the nine year period between 1936 and 1945, with victories in 1936, 1940 and 1945. Cook won the Sydney Cup for the second time in the year 1953. At some point in his life, Billy Cook tried enrolling in the military but was rejected because of being flat-footed, despite having a strong physique.
After having been enlisted in the militia in 1942, Billy Cook worked as an accountant and came out with a rank of a corporal. He was also loved for his dedication in entertaining average racegoers despite being contracted by the rajahs and the royalty. Unfortunately for Billy Cook though, he had to retire in 1959 after having had an accident while training; a factor that culminated in relatively less satisfactory performances.
For a man who was used to being a winner, Billy Cook couldn’t take it any longer when he could no longer get to race the horses he desired and when victory could not come through. After retirement, he had the satisfaction of watching his son Peter becoming a great jockey himself, winning two Melbourne Cups in the process. He also owned a number of horses after retiring and was also a trainer. Billy Cook passed on in January, 1985 and left behind his wife, three sons and three daughters.