The racing industry is fondly remembering former jockey Mr Bill Camer, who passed away aged 92 on Saturday, as a remarkable rider who lived and breathed the sport.
“Bill was highly respected not just by his former colleagues in the jockeys’ room, but by all those in the racing industry that had the pleasure of meeting this gentleman of the turf,” said Racing NSW’s Chief Executive, Mr Peter V’landys AM.
“Bill had a long and distinguished career competing in a golden era of jockeys and will be greatly missed. We pass on our sincere condolences to his wife Barbara and their family.”
Bill Camer, who was born in Italy, first started working as a newspaper delivery lad in the rural town of Ayr, about an hour south of Townsville in Queensland.
“I was 14 and that was towards the end of my school days, and being so small I delivered the papers on a pony,” Bill had recalled. “I had a split bag over the front of horse and carried the papers in that.
“A trainer’s son noticed me riding past and asked if I would like to be a jockey. Mum and Dad agreed to move to Townsville, and I eventually ended up at Randwick with trainer Pat Murray.”
Camer went on to become one of the country’s best lightweight jockeys and was once described as “The kind of hard-working man who helps form the sport’s backbone.”
Camer was the oldest living Cox Plate-winning jockey at his passing, having taken out the race in 1954 aboard Kingster.
Due to his lightweight frame, Bill had a special saddle made for Doncaster Handicap and Stradbroke winner Karendi which was carrying huge weights.
“The saddle was made so the lead was built into it, and you didn’t have a lead bag rolling over the horse.”
Camer also won the 1958 Stradbroke on two-year-old Wiggle (carrying 44kg) and the 1970 edition on Divide and Rule.
Wiggle won five successive races including the Champagne Stakes prior to her Stradbroke victory and ultimately won 21 of her 55 starts before being sold to the USA where she won another 20 races.
Camer was still competing at the elite level in 1975 when he took out the 1975 Epsom Handicap at Randwick on the Tommy Smith-trained roughie Authentic Heir.
Mr Camer, who initiated the original Australian Jockeys Association in the 1960s, is survived by his wife Barbara, son Bradley and daughter Tina.
NOTE: Australian Turf Club will honour Bill by staging the Vale Bill Camer Handicap at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday (3rd February 2024).
– Racing NSW