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After 40 years, Punters Pal returns to the Hill

Saturday, 19th March, 2016

John Letts and Joe Janiak being interviewed by Southern Cross Ten’s Tom Johnson. PICTURE: Emily Roberts John Letts and Joe Janiak being interviewed by Southern Cross Ten’s Tom Johnson. PICTURE: Emily Roberts

By Emily Roberts

Former jockey John Letts has a busy few days in the city, making lots of appearances as well as heading out to the races today.

John was in the city to speak at a luncheon held at the Tydvil yesterday with Joe Janiak of Takeover Target fame. 

“I came up 40 years ago to help a trainer with a horse,” John said.

Today, he is hoping just to meet with the locals.

“I plan to just mix and mingle with the crowd.

“Broken Hill is a great racing town. This race meet is their Melbourne Cup. People just love to win their home town cup.

“My biggest disappointment was not winning the Port Adelaide Cup. That was my home track - I was brought up on that track.”

With a career spanning 30 years, John had a big career. He began riding when he was 16 and from there, has ridden over 2,300 winners. He was immortalised by winning the Melbourne Cup twice on Piping Lane in 1972 and Beldale Ball in 1980.

In addition to his Cup successes, he has rode a host of big race winners including three SAJC Adelaide Cups on Rain Lover (1968), Grand Sale (1976) and Amarant (1983).

He also had success in the 1977 AJC Epsom Handicap on Raffindale, the 1975 Victoria Derby on Galena Boy and the 1980 VRC Australian Cup on Ming Dynasty. 

John has worked as a mounted interviewer for 7 Sport’s TV coverage of major races in Australia, including the Melbourne Cup.

“In 1972, I was fortunate enough to be picked up to ride Piping Lane in the Melbourne Cup.

“It was a dream of mine to ride in the Melbourne Cup.

“I never dreamt that I would win it. Then I won again in 1980.

“The Melbourne Cup is the race of dreams and it was a dream come true for me.”

John said he didn’t give winning a chance when riding in the Melbourne Cup.

“I think that’s what won it for me, I just didn’t give it a chance,” he said.

“It was a hard race, but once you win it your life changes.

“The trainer, the owner, the breeder and the horse - all their lives change.”

John said riding in the Melbourne Cup was a big moment for him.

“There was a 110,000 people there and so much noise.

“But right before the last horse is in, it just goes quiet.

“Then the gates break and this wall of noise hits you.

“The crowd is thunderous. I don’t know if they were cheering me on or hoping the horse behind me would ride over the top of me.”

Also known as “The Punters Pal”, John said he owes much to that first Melbourne Cup win.

“Piping Lane made my life, I owe so much to him.

“I never even had the chance to pat him or thank him.

If you see John out and about today pop over and say hello. He has some great stories and a joke or two.

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