AFTER 18 months trying to resume his long and illustrious riding career, champion Camperdown jockey Neville “Nifty” Wilson will today announce his retirement.
The 65-year-old, Australia’s oldest jockey, suffered injuries to his vertebrae, shoulder, right arm and left thumb in a race fall at Geelong in March last year. After a career which started in 1962 and included 2078 winners, the popular and respected hoop said he made the decision to retire after visiting Geelong neuro-surgeon Greg Hetherington yesterday.
He described the surgeon’s report as “very good, but not good enough” to keep on riding.
“I’ve decided to retire. Mr Hetherington said my neck and shoulder have made great improvement since the fall but they will not be good enough to ride in races,” Wilson said.
“It’s disappointing to retire but on the other hand I’ve been very lucky in my riding career. The fall at Geelong was the worst fall I’ve had in 50 years of race riding.
“I can’t complain with my lot in racing. I’ve been lucky to have met some wonderful people in my job as a jockey — whether that has been fellow jockeys, owners, trainers, racing administrators and the general public.”
Wilson, president of the Victorian Jockeys’ Association (VJA) for 20 years and a director of the Australian Jockeys’ Association (AJA) for 12 years, told AJA chairman Ross Inglis of his decision last night.
Inglis said an official announcement of Wilson’s retirement would be forwarded to jockeys across Australia, the media and racing administrators this afternoon.
“Neville is respected by his peers at all levels, whether they are apprentices or senior jockeys,” Inglis said.
“He’s had a wonderful career. He does not have to prove anything to anyone. We want Neville to stay on as the president of the VJA and as a director of the AJA. ”
Wilson’s career highlights include victories at group 1 level — three on his favourite mount Redelva (1990 Lightning Stakes, 1991 William Reid Stakes, 1991 Futurity Stakes), one with Black Rogue (1993 Vic Health Cup) and one on Preserves (2000 Sires Produce).
He won the South Western District Racing Association’s jockey premiership 16 times.
“Redelva was a champion,” Wilson said. “I won 13 races on him. Three were in group 1s, while the other 10 wins were in group 2s and 3s. Just riding Redelva in those races was a massive highlight in my career,” he said.
“The other highlight was to win the 2008 Wangoom Handicap at the Warrnambool May Racing Carnival on Lancet for my good mate, respected Camperdown trainer Geoff Daffy. I’ve been riding in races and track work for Geoff for nearly 40 years. I’ll want to be an assistant trainer to Geoff in the future.”
Wilson’s achievements in racing were acknowledged in 2009 when Country Racing Victoria announced the introduction of the Neville Wilson Medal to honour Victoria’s premier country jockey. Wilson was awarded a 2009 Order of Australia Medal in recognition of his contribution to racing.
Wilson left school when he was 14 to chase his dream to be a jockey and rode his first winner at 15.
The passionate Collingwood supporter, who has five daughters and 12 grandchildren, said he owed much to his wife Carol.