Legend passes away

Bill Skelton, who will always be remembered as a legend of the NZ turf.

Bill Skelton, who will always be remembered as a legend of the NZ turf.

Bill Skelton, one of New Zealand’s greatest jockeys, died yesterday morning. He was 85.

A long-time Levin resident, Skelton won the jockeys’ premiership seven times and he was the first rider to win 2000 races in New Zealand.

He retired from riding in July 1985, but only two riders – David Walsh and Lance O’Sullivan – have bettered his tally of 2156 domestic wins

Skelton was a member of an outstanding West Coast racing family and he was followed as a jockey by younger brothers Frank, Bob, Errol and Max. Between them the brothers rode the winners of more than 4500 races. Bob Skelton, who was also a champion jockey, died last August.

Bill, who rode his first winner in July 1947, also had success as a trainer and rode and trained Lucky Son to win the 1965 Auckland Cup.

His other feature wins included the Wellington Cup, New Zealand Cup, Railway Handicap, Easter Handicap and Thorndon Mile and he had four wins in the Telegraph at Trentham.

He also made his mark in Australia, where his major wins included the Victoria Derby and Cox Plate on the Woodville galloper Daryl’s Joy.

His health suffered following a stroke in 1994, but he still had an involvement in racing and has been a part-owner of Our Gazza.

– NZ Racing Desk.