“Balls of steel” is a rating justifiably applied to the recently retired Glen Boss – an extrovert extreme – while Robert Thompson also quit this week after gracing the turf with dignity and horse sense for 48 years.
Like Frank Sinatra, Boss, 52, did it his way. Thompson, 63, was more in the style of Slim Dusty – very much a bushie and much-admired.
Neither gets the champion tag from me, but that takes nothing away from their achievements. Perhaps “balls of steel” makes Boss better than some of my elites, who would also fall short of Thompson’s 4447 winners. Great jockeys have their own way to reach a desired result. Maybe some, in the Boss style, will go wherever horse and human can go. Hopefully, Banjo would forgive me for substituting human for man. Watching Rachel King take an inside run shows it’s not gender-restrictive.
Boss leaves great memories, foremost among them being Makybe Diva’s third Melbourne Cup, which earned the steel assessment, and the vision splendid of him partnering the champion mare to the 2005 Cox Plate in the lead-up to that Cup.
The pressure of chasing another Melbourne Cup following the previous two was as intense as race riding can be. Roy Higgins, a saddle supreme, maintained that, considering Makybe Diva’s 58kg, Boss had to stay out of trouble – thus, travel wide under an equaliser that would make the task too difficult.
Even trainer Lee Freedman figured on “playing percentages having the mare out and clear”. Makybe Diva jumped from gate 14 and Boss had her on the fence inside the first 200 metres, piloting a passage wise navigators feared to tread that ended within the tremendous roar from the 106,000 at Flemington.
Consider, though, the joy Thompson has created with his success rate far and wide, being so good for so long. Top Hat Joe was no Makybe Diva but was unforgettable to the hoop, who won the Jungle Juice Cup on his home track, Cessnock, 11 times.
Trained by his father Arthur, Top Hat Joe had a rare lead-up for the first-time success in 1250m race.
“I actually rode the horse to the races that day and it won the cup a few hours later,” Thompson recalled to the Newcastle Herald. Top Hat Joe couldn’t be loaded on the float.