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Our First Hoon

Written by Annie O'Riley ( on April 6, 2012

In the 1930’s a jockey by the name of Harold Skidmore was arguably one of the best jockeys of all time. He won the jockeys’ premiership three times and the racing public and the newspapers followed his every move.

When Harold was 11 years old he was apprenticed to Stan Murphy and later he rode for Tommy Smith. By the time he was 15, his list of injuries included concussion and a brain hemorrhage, a broken pelvis and a broken collarbone. None of this seemed to faze him because he went on to ride 150 winners. This by far outstripped the jockey who rode Phar Lap during his career.

The reason I am including young Harold in this series of historic notes is because Harry had a few problems in the Berwick/Pakenham region. The first was while he was competing at the Pakenham racecourse. His expensive kangaroo skin saddle was stolen along with one owned by jockey William Cox. It appears that they were never recovered.

The second little issue with the law was when he was 17 years old. He was driving back from the Pakenham races when he was chased and pulled up by two motorcycle police in Berwick and charged with speeding.  Aside from the fact that he was unlicensed, this misdemeanor made headlines because of the incredible speed that he was doing and the recklessness of it. Harold managed to get the car up to a whopping 55 miles per hour (or 88 kilometers per hour). He was fined £10 but appealed and this was later dropped to £5.

Harold went on to become a well respected owner and trainer of racehorses and in retirement raced a few greyhounds and learnt to fish.

Written by Annie O'Riley. Annie is the author of and has been researching local history for over 30 years. She is constantly finding new stories and characters to write about.

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