Darren Gauci

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Darren Gauci is an Australian jockey.

He has been acclaimed as one of Australia’s greatest-ever jockeys. He was the first apprentice in Victoria to win stakes of more than $1million. He rode his first city winner at Moonee Valley in 1982. In one golden patch in 1983, he rode 18 consecutive winners. He is still riding today.

Early life

Darren's early racing experiences were highlighted in an article by The Age journalist Patrick Bartley (The Age, October 14, 2005). His older brother Mick was already working at trainer Don Shannon’s racing stables in 1978, and at weekends 12 year old Darren would join him. Shannon’s stable jockey Geoff Bamford introduced him to riding, on an ageing grey pony and, in a short time, he was invited to work the thoroughbreds. By the age of 13, he had a major decision to make. As a 9, 10 and 11 year old he had won Best Player Awards in Soccer and was chosen to represent Victoria. He concluded that “at every training session, they got taller and I didn’t”.

His father, Bill, a wharfie, bowed to the inevitable and moved the family to Caulfield to be close to the stables. Darren would get up at 2.30am, start work mucking out the boxes and preparing the horses at 3.30am, ride for other stables at 5 o’clock, ride for Frank King to whom he was indentured at 7 o’clock, bed the horses down at 9 0’clock, go to the park to cut fresh grass for the horses, then practise in the hay loft on a bag of chaff to hone his skills.

By the time Darren finished his apprenticeship, he had won four junior riding titles and one senior riding premiership. He won three more premierships before a stint in Hong Kong, then another on his return. Darren has been the leading jockey for trainer John Hawkes for most of his riding career. He said that Darren was “just a natural with balance and maturity…He was the best. He was phenomenal. You wouldn’t get a better jockey”. His early mentor, Geoff Bamford, describes him as “fearless, determined and the most important ingredient, a natural”.

Awards and recognitions

Darren won the Senior Victorian Jockeys Premiership in 1983-84, 1985-86 and 1990-91. For all his brilliance, it is ironical that the biggest races have eluded him. He has never won any of the big three in Australia: the Cox Plate, the Caulfield Cup, or the Melbourne Cup. Second, yes, but not first. He has 3 second placings in the Melbourne Cup, the latest in 2005. He was awarded the Australian Sports Medal on August 30, 2000. A portrait of him was entered in the Archibald Prize in the same year.

Darren has suffered a number of injuries over the years. On one occasion, he fell in and out of a coma for eight days. On another occasion, he fell when the horse he was riding died, and he was out of action for ten months. However he still continues to ride (2013) and brings home the occasional winner even though he tends to be overlooked for the big races because of his age.

Darren was born on December 26, 1965, in Melbourne. He married Karen Dunkerton, the former Young Talent Time star, in 1989 and they have four children.


  • Wikipedia, Darren Gauci
  • Gauci front and centre as Budriguez wins again, The Age, March 30, 2013
  • In the twilight zone, but ageless Gauci is still living the dream, The Sydney Morning Herald, October 12, 2012