WHEN Camperdown jockey Neville ‘Nifty’ Wilson started his long and decorated career, he never expected to have a race named in his honour.
Wilson’s 50 years in the saddle were recognised with a function at Warrnambool Racing Club yesterday.
Family and friends, including Wilson’s wife Carole and four of his five daughters, then watched the meet’s feature race, the $50,000 Nifty’s Fabulous Fifty Handicap.
Wilson, who was Australia’s oldest jockey before he retired last month, said he was humbled.
“It’s a bit unexpected, but Warrnambool has been really good to me over the years and it’s terrific,” he said.
“It is really good for the wife and the family.”
A trophy from Wilson’s first Warrnambool-based win in 1968 was on show.
“I went to Sydney riding and I come back and I was riding in Melbourne and Jocka Baillie rang me to come up and ride the horse and I won the Woodford Cup on him,” he said.
With retirement setting in, Wilson said he’d had time to reflect on his glistening career, which included 2078 winners.
“I’ll miss it, definitely. I’ll miss the camaraderie in the jockeys’ room and miss the competitiveness,” he said.
Wilson said he would remain involved in horse racing.
“I am riding a little bit of track work, two or three horses of track work,” he said.
“I am assisting Geoff Daffy in Camperdown. That is about as far as I’d go, I think.”
Wilson said he’d always had an interest in training.
“I was thinking about it but I just kept riding,” he said. “Now I am probably a bit too old to do it.”
The grandfather of 12 said he would be a regular fixture at Warrnambool race meetings.
“I have only missed two May carnivals since 1968,” he said.
“One was through injury, I had a shoulder injury, and the other I was overseas.”