GLENN McFARLANE

Sunday Herald Sun - - Racing -

ALL Dar­ren Gauci wanted to do af­ter pass­ing the Caulfield win­ning post for the fi­nal time yes­ter­day in the race named af­ter him was to keep go­ing.

It was the nat­u­ral in­stinct of a horse­man whose liveli­hood and love of the job com­bined to make him one of Aus­tralia’s great­est jock­eys and one of the most loved per­son­al­i­ties in rac­ing.

Say­ing good­bye was al­ways go­ing to be a wrench.

When the 51-year-old faded into eighth po­si­tion on Longeron — a son of cham­pion Lonhro who Gauci rode to vic­tory in the 2001 Caulfield Guineas — he still wanted to con­tinue.

“I went past the post and I thought ... I just want to keep rid­ing him,” an emo­tional Gauci said af­ter com­ing back to the loud cheers of the crowd in­clud­ing his wife Karen, their four chil­dren Jade, Bre­anna, Brooke and Sean, his fam­ily and the ex­tended rac­ing com­mu­nity.

“I am so over­whelmed ... it is just amaz­ing the sup­port I have had through­out the week.”

Gauci’s last ride — af­ter a ca­reer stretch­ing back to his early teens, and which pro­duced more than 2500 wins and 35 Group 1s from his 24,000-plus rides — did not pro­vide a vic­tory, but he did man­age one yes­ter­day, salut­ing on the aptly-named Good­will seven races ear­lier. It is hard to think of a more loved hoop — veteran race­caller Bryan Martin called him “the most uni­ver­sally loved rac­ing per­son I have ever seen”.

Gauci had three rides yes­ter­day — a win on Good­will in Race 2, a fifth on Miss Gid­get in Race 6 and eighth on Longeron in the Dar­ren Gauci Farewell Hand­i­cap — be­fore start­ing his new ca­reer as an ap­pren­tice rid­ing coach with Rac­ing Victoria to­mor­row.

His fa­ther, Bill, couldn’t have been more proud when Gauci man­aged to gain a tight vic­tory on Good­will.

“I watched the race and thought he got beaten,” he said.

“Then I looked up and saw the num­ber 8 — and he had won it.

“He al­ways tries his hard­est to win.

“That’s what he did to­day. I won’t miss the nerves (watch­ing him ride), es­pe­cially when he fell at Yarra Glen all those years ago (Gauci was in a coma for sev­eral days). “Me and my wife used to worry.” The jock­eys not en­gaged in Race 3 came out to watch him win for Lloyd Wil­liams and those who were com­pet­ing in the last race — as well as many cham­pi­ons of the past in­clud­ing Gary Wil­letts — formed a guard of hon­our as he headed into the mount­ing yard one last time.

That brother­hood af­fected Gauci as much as any­thing else.

As did the spe­cial pre­sen­ta­tion the Mel­bourne Rac­ing Club made to him af­ter the last race, shortly af­ter Greg Miles — him­self re­tir­ing later in the year — closed his ca­reer by say­ing:

“Thanks for the mem­o­ries ‘Gauch’, you’re a leg­end.” His wife, Karen, the for­mer Young Tal­ent Time star who met her hus­band when he ap­peared on the show in 1983, said it was “amaz­ing” he rode a fi­nal day win­ner.

She re­vealed their chil­dren, who all rushed down to the scales to watch their fa­ther weigh in, had some­thing spe­cial planned for him last night.

“I don’t even know what it is,” the re­tir­ing jockey said. “They have been act­ing pretty sheep­ish.”

Hope­fully it in­volved a de­cent feed. As he hon­oured his fi­nal rid­ing com­mit­ments, sum­ming up Longeron’s per­for­mance to trainer Wayne Hawkes, he joked: “I’m go­ing to have a big ham­burger.”

Af­ter ev­ery­thing Gauci has given to the in­dus­try across three quar­ters of his life — cham­pion ap­pren­tice, cham­pion jockey and cham­pion bloke — no one de­serves it more.

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