• Richard 'Darby' McCarthy. (Richard 'Darby' McCarthy. )Source: Richard 'Darby' McCarthy.
Richard "Darby" McCarthy, one of Australia's greatest race jockeys and a trailblazer for Indigenous people, passed away last week at the age of 76.
Douglas Smith

12 May 2020 - 12:09 PM  UPDATED 12 May 2020 - 12:10 PM

Australian horse racing lost one of its greatest last week with the passing of champion hoop Darby McCarthy, who was also a trailblazer for Aboriginal people from the moment he started working with horses at the age of nine. 

Mr McCarthy, a proud Mithika man who was born in a sandhills camp on the outskirts of Cunnamulla in Western Queensland in 1944, left school at nine-years-old to work on a cattle station, and it was there where his passion for horses developed. 

Not long after, he enrolled into Queensland's jockey school at the age of 11. He would go on to be crowned the champion of the Queensland apprentice jockey school in 1960 and 1961.

He won his first race at a Flying Doctors race meeting in Thargomindah - by six lengths - before moving on to bigger things.  

Mr McCarthy raced frequently in Brisbane, where his records include three Stradbroke Handicaps, the Brisbane Cup and Doomben 10,000, before a move to Sydney where he took the 1969 AJC Derby on Divide And Rule and the Epsom with Broker's Tip on the same day.

Although his record spoke for itself in Australia where he achieved widespread acclaim during the 1950s and 1960s,  his decorated career which also reached across to Europe and England, where he raced in Paris and at Royal Ascot.

Over the course of his career, Darby rode more than 1000 winners.

In his biography, Darby McCarthy Against All Odds, Olympic Gold Medalist Cathy Freeman spoke about her time spent with the McCarthy family whilst she attended boarding school in Toowoomba. 

"He may not realise this, but Darby influenced me and encouraged me to strive for excellence in all that I do and to persevere against all odds and for this I will forever be thankful," said Ms Freeman.

"We first met in Queensland when I was 15 and Darby and his family were kind enough to let me stay on weekends away from boarding school at Toowoomba.

"I learnt some precious lessons from Darby who taught me in his own charismatic and crazy way what it takes to be a real contender, to rise above everything and everyone else to be your very best," she said. 

In 2004, McCarthy became just the fourth jockey to be inducted into the Queensland Hall of Fame, following in the footsteps of Mick Dittman, George Moore and Neville Sellwood, before being awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for his services to racing and his work with Indigenous youth in 2016.

In his final years, Mr McCarthy lived in Darling Downs where he continued to serve as a role model, particularly for the Indigenous community, and was inducted in the Aboriginal and Islander Sports Hall of Fame.