Racing legend turns 103

Australia's oldest jockey will celebrate his 103rd birthday in style on Melbourne Cup Day. Edgar Britt is the last living jockey to have raced against Phar Lap - he shares his life achievements - and the secret to staying young. 

It’s been 81 years since Australia’s oldest jockey Edgar Britt last raced in the Melbourne cup.

But despite the 103 year-old’s decorated racing career, the Order of Australia Medal recipient says Melbourne Cup Day is still his favourite.

“It’s still the most special race run in Australia,” says Edgar. “It’s the biggest prize money to start with... but it’s a rat race I can tell you,” he says.

So it’s only fitting that Edgar celebrates his 103rd birthday among family and friends a few days late, to coincide with the race that stops the nation.

It may not be Flemington, but Bupa Aged Care in Runaway Bay throws a party to celebrate every year. Last year there was guinea pig racing and fashions on the field, this year there'll be even more surprises.

“He always does look very smart when he goes to the races. In fact, he looks pretty smart all the time,” says Edgar’s son in law Tony Rhodes. “I think dapper would be the word.”

Edgar and his daughters

The 103 year-old’s passion for horse racing started as a young boy.

He was mesmerised by the colour, excitement and atmosphere, plus he was the right build (1.5 metres tall and 35 kilograms).

Edgar is the only living jockey to have raced against Phar Lap.

“All I can remember is I saw his backside,” jokes Edgar.

As a young jockey he raced around the world: India, Britain, France and the United States.

He rode for several Maharajas in India, but the highlight of his illustrious career was riding for the royal family in the 1950s.

“No other Australian had done it before,” says Edgar (pictured riding the King's horse below).

Edgar on the king's horse

He made such an impression on Queen Elizabeth, that when the monarch visited Royal Randwick Racecourse in 1992, she asked specifically to speak to Edgar.

“They reminisced and during that conversation she asked whether she could have her photograph taken with him which is very unusual because she doesn’t make a practice of doing that,” says Tony.

“She had a photograph taken and that photograph now hangs in our lounge room.”

“When one particular person came to our house and saw the photo, their immediate comment was ‘who is that lady with Edgar Britt,’” Tony says.

Edgar and the Queen

Tony was so fascinated by his father in law, he wrote a book The King’s Choice documenting Edgar’s racing achievements.

“These older Australians’ lives are so interesting,” says Tony. “I believe it is important for our grandchildren and our great grandchildren to learn about pop’s life.”

Edgar’s family credits his long life to regular exercise.

“I just walked and I did a bit of swimming,” Edgar says.

And while he doesn’t swim anymore he still goes to regular exercise classes at the Bupa Aged Care home.

“I’m over 100 and I’m still going and I’ll keep going as long as I can.” 

Bupa Aged Care

Bupa Aged Care, offers a full range of care including respite, residential and specialised dementia care.

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