NEWS & EVENTS
How Jim Cassidy stayed at the top of the racing tree for so long
With a straw hat more Birdsville than Royal Ascot and shirt styled along Hawaiian lines with a Kuta influence, Malcolm Ayoub, the motivator who kept Jim Cassidy pumping, cut a stylish figure at Otto, the Woolloomooloo eating joint.
Cassidy was so good, so old because of Ayoub, colourful in character as well as dress, who spent the good and bad times with the champion maintaining his fitness and mental health, no mean feat.
Now retired at 52 and a principal for an upcoming celebration day by the Australian Turf Club, Cassidy’s most epic ride, among many, was the 1997 Melbourne Cup when he primed and nursed Might And Power in front to run the Flemington 3200 metres.
Prior, before the cut off time in the Flemington jockey’s room, Ayoub rubbed and squeezed every ounce getting him to “medium rare, not overcooked” and at full pumping power. So when Doriemus, under the powerful persuasion of Greg Hall, made his move after others had softened Might And Power up, Cassidy was able to generate an extra 6cm out of his mount to score.
“I worked him in a hot room but maintained circulation,” Ayoub said, adding that he rubs or massages with his hands and inspired with strong words.
I first met Cassidy in 1981 after he won the Brisbane Cup on Four Crowns. Two years later he notched the Big One with Kiwi. I go back further with Ayoub to when the was running Sydney’s famous City To Surf – barefoot.
“I did it under an hour and charged past the Canberra contingent who had a handy stayer called [Robert] de Castella running with them,” he recalled. “When it got serious he picked me up pretty quick.”
Cassidy, too, is a stayer and one of the most notorious, in and out of the saddle. Few, if any, would be better credentialed in either category, topping the ton of group 1s a highlight, particularly considering enforced absences.
Because of a distinctive pumping style, I once described him as resembling “a dog shagging a boot”. He considered legal action based on the argument of the greater the truth, the greater the libel. On ground level he struck trouble: a three-month suspension for testing positive to marijuana. No sympathy asked for, none given.
Going back to when he was stable jockey for Brian Mayfield-Smith in Sydney he was outed over his handling of Cruising, serving hard time. Cruising never won another race even though exiled to South Australia. Thus Cruising went better for Cassidy, allegedly dead, than he did for others at full throttle.
Then came the jockey tapes scandal in 1995 for which he served 21 months; he lost so-called mates by the droves, but not Ayoub.
“It’s a chapter of my life that will make good reading one day,” he maintained a few years back and a biography is now being compiled by colleague Andrew Webster. “I’ll disclose all the truths: the people who gave me up, the people who I thought were great friends … I was supposedly fixing races and running Sydney racing.”
But the Pumper likes winning. Incidentally the title was given to him by Glen Robbins, one of the founders of the internet site Racenet.
While the brain and hands worked smoothly in unison decades of hard labour took another toll: Cassidy’s knees, back and feet started to show signs of wear and tear. “During a race consider the pressure he put on his toes,” Ayoub stressed. “The toes and the arches of his feet had been giving him pain, particularly in distance races.”
The impeded circulation and calluses were a problem, treated by Ayoub with emu oil.
Maybe Ayoub came pontificate like a naturopath although he came from a tough school attended by bush smarties and city slickers, skilled in the art of turf chicanery.
“Most jockeys have fantastic skin while they are young because the constant rubbing cleanses every part of the tissue that rubbish blocks up,” he diagnosed.
Using himself as a model Cassidy has mentioned marketing emu oil as a beauty product but now Ayoub, with more time on his hands, wants to concentrate on a men’s fashion line.
Written by Max Presnell – Sydney Morning Herald