Jim Pike’s passion for horse racing was surely a great driving force and motivation behind his early success as he had won a total of 40 winners by 1908 February.
Jim Pike was born in September, 1892 in New South Wales’ Newcastle region. He was the son of a race attendant known as Charles Pike and Jane Isabella. He gained interest in horse riding at a tender age and by the age of 12; he had joined Ernie Connor’s stables.
He was however, his age proved to be his greatest misgiving as he was denied active participation on two occasions due to his young age. He then joined William Kelso from Sydney as an apprentice and had his first victory in July, 1906.
His great show on different racecourses made Kelso to tag him along when he went to England, where he impressed Lord Carnarvon, who was a leading owner despite having stayed for a short time due to the extremely cold weather over there and having ended up riding only two winners.
Upon his return to Australia, Jim Pike won two major races: in 1909 at the Australian Cup while riding Pendil and the Victoria Derby with Beverage in 1910. At the start of World War I, he stopped racing for a while. The 1920s were particularly successful years for Jim Pike as he won the Victoria Derby in the 1928-1929 season for trainer Sol Green while riding Strephon.
In addition, he also won the AJC and VRC St Legers. In total, Pike had 14 wins in the middle period of 1920s while riding The Hawke. Between 1928 and 1931, Jim Pike won the Victoria Derby 4 consecutive times.
Jim Pike also developed a reputation of not having had a fetish for whipping the horses he was ridding. In most cases, all he had to do was to gesture to the horse using his whip and the horse would respond accordingly.
His only noticeable problem was his tall height and considerably heavy weight that came with it. However, after long sessions of dieting, he managed to shade off some weight, although the resultant effect was a visible gaunt on his face. In 1929, he set a great milestone with the legendary Phar Lap after winning the Victoria Derby in a new record time.
His relationship with Phar Lap was an admirable one as most of the time he only used to flick the whip he was using in a particular direction and Phar Lap would correctly read the motion. Phar Lap was in turn a great performer and a great galloper. This was the beginning of a prosperous union between Jim Pike and Phar Lap and they went on to win a total of 27 races.
However, it would seem that not everybody was pleased with the success that Jim Pike and Phar Lap were enjoying at that time. In 1930, just a few days to the Melbourne Cup, they both had to hide themselves after some ill-motivated gunmen went on a mission aimed at killing Phar Lap.
However, as fate would have it, Phar Lap died while in the United States where the country was undergoing a period of economic depression and where Pike had refused to ride him. Jim Pike and Phar Lap’s fairytale run was also interrupted in 1931 when weight proved to be the obstacle against Phar Lap’s win of the Melbourne Cup.
At the beginning of the new decade, Jim Pike continued with his great form, winning the Doncaster Handicap of 1934 while carrying 10 stone 4 pounds after having had a bad start and winning the 1932-1933 edition of the Epsom Handicap.
Jim Pike later rode another great called Peter Pan, with whom they recorded quite a number of impressive victories. It was also quite an achievement to take Peter Pan through such a period of success, especially considering the fact that Peter Pan was widely considered as apt for savaging his rivals.
Among the races that Jim Pike won while riding Peter Pan were the St Leger and AJC Derby. He would also have won the Melbourne Cup of 1934 with Peter Pan had it not been for the suspension he was serving. In summary, Jim Pike won 129 principal races, including six Victoria Derbies, nine Rosehill Spring Handicaps, 3 AJC Derby titles, 3 titles of VRC St Legers, 4 Handicaps (2 Doncaster and 2 Epsom), a Melbourne Cup title, eight wins in the All Aged Stakes and 3 wins at the AJC St Legers.
His biggest disappointment was perhaps the low return he had in the Melbourne Cup. Out of the 17 mounts that he had in the cup, he only won once and was placed third once as well. Jim Pike’s greatest success story however has to be the great Phar Lap, with whom he had 30 races and won a whole 27 of those.
After having succeeded as a jockey for such a long time, Jim Pike retired in the year 1936 and tried a hand in training horses. However, he was not as lucky as a trainer and his gambling habit which was both in horse racing and while playing cards ultimately drove him into poverty. He was a habitual gambler who was willing to bet thousands of pounds in one game, but unfortunately he did not win as a gambler either.
Jim Pike was liked very much and was also very popular for his generosity outside the racecourse. He was cremated after his death in 1969, leaving behind his wife and two children.