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Harold Lindsay Badger (1907–1981)

by Andrew Lemon

This article was published:

Harold Lindsay Badger (1907-1981), jockey, was born on 10 October 1907 at Northcote, Melbourne, third of eight children and second son of Australian-born parents Ernest William Badger, boot clicker, and his wife Esther Kemp, née Moss. Two of Harold’s brothers, Clarence and Eric, became jockeys. His great-grandfather, David Badger (1827-1890), had been a pioneering Baptist minister in South Australia. Harold grew up and attended school in semi-rural Montmorency. At 14 he was apprenticed to a Flemington-based trainer, Richard Bradfield, who proved to be an outstanding mentor. Bradfield often sent him to race in South Australia, where he did well, winning the Adelaide Cup on Stralia in 1925. When he finished his apprenticeship, Bradfield advised him to move to South Australia.

On 17 May 1928 at St Peters Church, Adelaide, Badger married Frances Augustus Newton, with the forms of the Churches of Christ. The couple returned to Victoria and lived near Mentone racecourse; they were to shift to Caulfield in 1938. As number-two jockey for the trainer Lou Robertson, Badger had few opportunities for major wins so in 1936 he turned freelance. That year he reluctantly accepted the mount on Northwind which duly won the Caulfield Cup at 66/1. His success with Ajax made Badger a household name. He rode the champion horse to 30 of his 36 top-class victories between 1937 and 1940. Even Ajax’s loss, at 40/1 on, at Rosehill, Sydney, in 1939 perversely increased the fame of horse and jockey.

Clarence Badger had been critically injured in a race crash at Geelong on 13 April 1938. Harold rushed from Sydney to Melbourne then, following his brother’s death on the 14th, returned by air next day to keep his riding engagements at Randwick. On 20 April he rode three winners, only to be suspended for a month for careless riding. Over the five seasons from 1938-39 to 1942-43 he was Victoria’s leading jockey.

A car accident in 1943 nearly killed Badger and kept him from the saddle for about five months. He vowed to secure another premiership and achieved this goal in 1947-48, helped by first-placings on Columnist in a number of races, including the Caulfield Cup. A fall from that horse affected his vision and he retired in November 1948. Next year he visited England for medical advice but the condition was inoperable. Over his career he had won nearly a thousand races; his victories in more than one hundred feature events included the Newmarket Handicap (three times) and the Doncaster and Epsom handicaps (twice).

In a sport tarnished with dubious dealings, Badger maintained a rare reputation for honesty. Not quite 5 ft (153 cm) tall, he had been rejected for army service in World War II despite his strength and tenacity: the press called him a `pocket Hercules’. He rode at 7 st. 10 lb. (49 kg) with recourse to the steam baths, but never weighed more than 8 st. (51 kg). A private man who regarded racehorse-riding as a job, he disdained glamour and avoided publicity, so his achievements have been undervalued. He was happily inconspicuous in retirement, briefly leasing a hotel at Flemington, and farming at Romsey and Sun-bury before settling in Melbourne at Mount Waverley. He died on 13 December 1981 at Cheltenham and was cremated. His wife survived him, as did their son, Harold, a distinguished musician.

Select Bibliography

  • M. Cavanough, The Caulfield Cup (1976)
  • D. Badger, David Badger (1985)
  • A. Lemon, The History of Australian Thoroughbred Racing, vol 2 (1990)
  • Argus (Melbourne), 14 Apr 1938, p 1, 16 Apr 1938, p 22
  • Turf Monthly, Jan 1971, p 6, July 1980, p 18
  • Age (Melbourne), 16 Dec 1981, p 28
  • Sun News-Pictorial (Melbourne), 16 Dec 1981, p 88
  • private information.

Citation details

Andrew Lemon, 'Badger, Harold Lindsay (1907–1981)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 18 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (Melbourne University Press), 2007

View the front pages for Volume 17

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