STREAKY BAY’S HOMETOWN HERO
How a little boy from a small town jumped in the saddle and turned his dreams to reality and became …
FROM the moment he could walk, Kerrin McEvoy only ever wanted to ride.
Born in remote Streaky Bay on October 24, 1980, it’s no exaggeration to say that he was born with a love of horses running through his veins.
Both grandfathers, Bill Holland and Charlie McEvoy, were horsemen – in particular, his “Pop” Holland was a jockey-turned-trainer. His father Phillip was a jockey, and his uncle Tony a trainer.
But it was Holland who was instrumental in turning the young McEvoy’s boyhood love of horses into a successful career that – after his third Melbourne Cup win on Tuesday – places him among the best jockeys in the world.
“Kerrin was around horses from a young age,” his mum Tracy says. “Even aged one, he was wobbling behind my dad.”
Streaky is a farming/ fishing town about an hour’s drive from Ceduna on the western side of Eyre Peninsula.
Somewhat isolated – 700km from Adelaide – the town is obsessed with horse racing.
The walls of the front bar at the Streaky Bay Hotel are adorned with racing memorabilia and almost everyone seems to have a connection to a horse, somewhere, somehow.
Tracy and Phil are still liv- ing in the modest home in which their three children grew up. Kerrin’s old bedroom has long been converted into a guest bedroom but an enlarged picture of him moments after his first Melbourne Cup win in 2000 takes pride of place on a wall. For Tracy, McEvoy’s focus and talent was evident very early.
First, he loved his toy rocking horse. Then, he graduated to a small broom and stick. Then he learnt riding technique on a chaff bag over which Holland slung a saddle. Then came pony club and gymkhana competitions.
McEvoy would wake up early and run to Holland’s property up the hill to rake out the yards before school. And every holidays he would hop – aged only eight or nine – on the Stateliner bus and head to Lindsay Park, where uncle Tony McEvoy was a foreman and he’d learn trackwork.
“In those days, Port Lincoln used to have their races on a Thursday every fortnight during the racing season, and Kerrin would take the day off school to watch,” Tracy says.
“Even Melbourne Cup day … there was no way I could drag him to school on that day.
“He’d only read horse books like Black Beauty and by the time he got through those, he’d just read Hoofs and Horns (magazines), but the teachers didn’t care because at least he was reading.”
When Year 9 at Streaky Bay Area School ended, McEvoy begged his parents to leave. They put their foot down: “At least do Year 10,” they pleaded.
“He was good at everything he tackled … he could have gone on and done whatever he wanted,” Tracy says.
It was a hard decision to let their son leave school, especially because all the McEvoys who’d gone into jockeying before him – Phillip and Tony included – turned out “heavy” in manhood. But, says Tracy, McEvoy wasn’t a big eater, never eating cakes or lollies “just chicken and a few veg and some mince meat”.
“But at that stage, he was only about 35kg so we made him do Year 10 then he left.”
McEvoy’s first jockey apprenticeship was with Holland, riding locally across the Eyre Peninsula, and after his first win at Ceduna in 1997, Adelaide beckoned and he quickly ended up in Melbourne.
Sister Renae Edmunds recalls this as a tricky time for
PROUD: Mum Tracy at her Streaky Bay home where Kerrin grew up.