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One of the great New Zealand jockeys, Bob Skelton MBE, has passed away in Melbourne at the age of 81.
Renowned for his uncanny ability to judge pace, Skelton was regarded as the most successful rider of two-mile stayers in Australasia. A Wellington Cup hat-trick in the early 1960s on the mighty stayer Great Sensation, two Auckland Cups and two Perth Cups underlined that skill, but his ultimate victory came in the 1976 Melbourne Cup on tough Kiwi stayer Van Der Hum.
Greymouth-born Skelton was one of five jockey brothers, the eldest of whom, Bill, established a premiership-winning pattern that his younger brother was to emulate. Great horses Bob was associated with included the champion racemare Show Gate and the Washdyke Wonder, Grey Way.
Skelton spent the final years of his jockey career in Melbourne and on retirement from the saddle in 1988, he took up training at Mornington.
In 1978 he was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire for services to racing and was inducted into the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame in 1995. Other honours that followed included becoming an inaugural inductee to the New Zealand Racing Hall of Fame in 2006, and a year later the Auckland Racing Club made him a Legend of Ellerslie, one of his favourite tracks.
Skelton was predeceased by his wife Maureen in 2000 and was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year. According to his son Craig, he made the most of the time he knew was limited, attending his final New Zealand Racing Hall of Fame dinner in February and catching up with his many friends in New Zealand.
“It was only recently that he took a turn for worse and was admitted to the hospice,” Craig told www.theinformant.co.nz this afternoon. “His condition deteriorated suddenly yesterday and we knew then that his time was up.
“He passed away peacefully earlier today with all four of us – me, my brother Craig and sisters Tracey and Jane - at his side.
“Especially over the last couple of days we’ve had a lot of calls and messages and it means a lot to us that so many people have expressed their concerns for Dad.”
Bob Skelton’s funeral service will take place at 2pm next Wednesday at Saint McCartan’s Church, Mornington. – Dennis Ryan, The Informant
Bob Skelton & Grey Way