[28, [Phar Lap] PIKE, James Edward (Jim) [jockey (1892-1969)]
A superb vintage hand-coloured gelatin silver photograph of Jim Pike on a fast-moving Phar Lap, taken just before they crossed the line to win the 1930 Melbourne Cup. The photographer is Charles Daniel Pratt (1892-1968), perhaps better known as the Victorian aerial photographer 'Airspy'
The very large photograph (image size 295 x 375 mm) is on the original mount (435 x 525 mm, with framing instructions and presumably the original owner's details - 'Mr Bray 230A Rundle St' - in pencil on the verso); the title 'Phar Lap' is written neatly in ink in a contemporary style on the mount below the image. A mat was originally attached to the mount, with the dimensions of its window about half a centimetre smaller all round than the photograph. The mat has been removed, exposing a half-centimetre border of slightly brighter colour around the margins of the photograph, and causing minor surface loss to the mount, with slight impact on the title. A new mat would mask all of these blemishes, apart from a trifling amount just below the caption. The photograph has a very fine vertical crease to it visible only in a raking light; it is approximately 130 mm in from the left-hand edge, and it was clearly present before mounting took place. Notwithstanding, this professionally hand-coloured vintage photograph is essentially in fine condition.
'Pike's name in racing will always be connected with the legendary Phar Lap. With Pike up for the first time Phar Lap won the 1929 Victoria Derby in record time and they began a remarkable connexion: they were together in 30 races for 27 wins including both St Legers. Pike and Phar Lap went into hiding after gunmen tried to kill the horse before the 1930 Melbourne Cup. Pike later said: 'We were never in doubt. We won as we liked'. However, weight prevented them winning the 1931 cup and Pike refused to ride the horse in the United States of America, where Phar Lap died. Horse and jockey were the darlings of the small punters in the Depression' (Australian Dictionary of Biography). Close scrutiny of a large number of images online of Jim Pike, Phar Lap and Flemington racecourse, leaves us in no doubt that this photograph depicts Jim Pike riding Phar Lap in the closing seconds of the 1930 Melbourne Cup. They 'won as we liked', and the record created then for the shortest-priced favourite (at odds of 8/11) in the Melbourne Cup still stands. 'A gentle rider who hated to use the whip, Pike was a wonderful judge of pace and could secure a 'tremendous effort from a horse through his masterly control and rare balance'. Defeated by increasing weight and the deleterious effects of constantly having to attempt to ride at 8 st. 10 lbs. (55 kg), he retired in April 1936.... he was a man of inflexible integrity but always a compulsive gambler. As well as betting on horses, he was 'a fanatic on golf and cards, being willing to bet hundreds of pounds on a single game'. He died in poverty'.