This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988
James Edward (Jim) Pike (1892-1969), jockey, was born on 4 September 1892 at Newcastle, New South Wales, eldest child of Charles Pike, Newcastle-born butcher and later racecourse attendant, and his Victorian wife Jane Isabella, née Liddell. Jim often played truant from school to ride horses. At 12 he joined Ernie Connors' stables and, weighing under four stone (25 kg), had his first mount soon afterwards. Banned twice for being under age, in 1906 he was apprenticed to the Sydney trainer William Kelso and won his first race in July; by February 1908 he had ridden some forty winners. Kelso took Pike with him to England, but after a cold winter they returned home. Pike rode only two winners there, but impressed Lord Carnarvon, a leading owner.
Pike had his first big wins in the Australian Cup on Pendil in 1909 and the Victoria Derby on Beverage next year. He dropped out of racing during World War I. On 19 July 1920 at St Jude's, Randwick, he married Barbara Daphne Hume. In the mid-1920s Pike had fourteen wins on The Hawke. In 1928-29 he rode Strephon to victory for Sol Green in the Victoria Derby and the Australian Jockey and Victoria Racing clubs St Legers; and on the miler Chatham he won two Epsom Handicaps in 1932-33 and the 1934 Doncaster carrying 10 st. 4 lb. (65 kg) on a sodden track after being left at the post.
However Pike's name in racing will always be connected with the legendary Phar Lap. With Pike up for the first time Phar Lap won the 1929 Victoria Derby in record time and they began a remarkable connexion: they were together in 30 races for 27 wins including both St Legers. Pike and Phar Lap went into hiding after gunmen tried to kill the horse before the 1930 Melbourne Cup. Pike later said: 'We were never in doubt. We won as we liked'. However, weight prevented them winning the 1931 cup and Pike refused to ride the horse in the United States of America, where Phar Lap died. Horse and jockey were the darlings of the small punters in the Depression.
In his last years as a jockey, Pike rode Peter Pan to many victories (a difficult task as the horse was apt to 'savage his rivals'), including the A.J.C. Derby and St Leger, but he missed the winning ride on him in the 1934 Melbourne Cup through suspension.
A gentle rider who hated to use the whip, Pike was a wonderful judge of pace and could secure a 'tremendous effort from a horse through his masterly control and rare balance'. Defeated by increasing weight and the deleterious effects of constantly having to attempt to ride at 8 st. 10 lbs. (55 kg), he retired in April 1936. His 129 wins in principal events included 9 Rosehill Spring Handicaps, 8 All Aged Stakes, 6 Victoria Derbys (4 consecutively in 1928-31), 3 A.J.C. Derbys, 3 A.J.C. St Legers, 3 V.R.C. St Legers, 2 Epsom and 2 Doncaster Handicaps; but 17 mounts in the Melbourne Cup brought him only one win and a third.
Unsuccessful as a trainer, Pike soon retired but continued to help apprentices. Blue-eyed with a face lined from dieting, he was a man of inflexible integrity but always a compulsive gambler. As well as betting on horses, he was 'a fanatic on golf and cards, being willing to bet hundreds of pounds on a single game'. He died in poverty at his Bondi home on 7 October 1969 and was cremated with Anglican rites. His wife, son and daughter survived him.
John N. Molony, 'Pike, James Edward (Jim) (1892–1969)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/pike-james-edward-jim-8050/text14041, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 18 January 2017.
This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988