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Harry Motton extraordinary jockey

Harry MottonWhen Geegees Blackflash won the 2013 Launceston Cup, his jockey, Peter Mertens, may well have been acclaimed by the crowd, but, and with the greatest respect, he does not even come close to a jockey called Harry Motton who achieved the same feat on board a 14 year old horse called Strop in 1876.

Interestingly, when he did ride Strop to victory, Motton was only 13 years old, or one year younger the horse. You may be struggling to find a reoccurrence of that anywhere in the world.

But Harry Motton wasn't just a jockey. He was quite an extraordinary sportsman.

As well as being a jockey good enough to ride in the Melbourne Cup (1876 - Bella) he was also a champion international rifle shooter, a cyclist, footballer, cricketer and lawn bowler, for some years being the vice president of the City Bowling Club in Sydney. Wonder what he did in his spare time?

The Sydney Morning Herald of November 5, 1930 reported that:

He won the Launceston and Hobart Cups on Strop, a Panic horse, in 1876. The horse was then 14 years old and the rider 13 years. The same horse won the Hobart Cup 10 years before, and was as sound as a bell when he was retired at 15 years. He also rode Strop in the Australian Cup in 1876, and was second on Bella in the Launceston Cup in 1877.

He had a sensational experience with the famous rider, Tom Hales, in one Hobart Cup. Hales was on Southern Cross and he on Strop. They were having a head-and-head finish when a stirrup broke, and he was falling between the two horses when Hales gripped him by the jacket and hoisted him back Into the saddle. Then he went on to ride desperately against Hales, who subsequently remarked that It was a bit rough for the boy to try and beat him after probably saving his life.

Riding a penny farthing he won the 5 and 10 mile cycling championships of North Queensland and as a footballer was a distinguished player and "gold medal" winner in Tasmania.

Cricketer?  Yes, you've got to believe it! He captained the Charters Towers (Qld) cricket team and was quite a good wicket keeper. And as a lawn bowler he won the Hunter's Hill singles and was runner up in the Sydney City Bowling Club championship.

Just for good measure, he is also in the history books as being the first man to drive a "new fangled" motor car in to the Queensland town of Cloncurry in 1906.

As a target rifle shooter he won Bisley, the epitome of shooting championships, in 1907 from a field of 1400 competitors scoring 103 out of a possible 105 from 21 shots.

He also just happened to have won The Sydney King's twice in Sydney (the ultimate shooting contest in Australia), the Queensland King's prize meeting once, the grand aggregate in Scotland in 1907, and two Tasmanian championships, as well as the miniature championship of New South Wales.

He was a bicycle maker before WW1, later became a gunsmith. He was very busy in the period when the Long Lee was the main target rifle in use in Australia (pre 1933) and he had a little hut at the Anzac range in Sydney from the late 1920's until about 1960, doing gunsmithing on rifles at all major meets there and for the local club members  He converted rifles from military standard to target shooting standard. He put new barrels on, bedded them and set them up for target use.

Later Harry's son Henry Irwin Motton was a gunsmith and another famous rifle shot, as was his son Peter... 3 generations of "Motty's".
A Motty rifle is regarded by those still in the sport as a very special piece of pre WW2 Australian target shooting history.

Peter Mertens? Good jockey but looks a bit pale compared to Harry Motton. Then again - so would we all.


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