Jack Purtell (1921-2017), jockey, had his first ride at the age of fifteen. In 1941, aged 20, he won the Caulfield Cup. Five years later, he took out the first of the seven jockeys’ premierships that made him one of Melbourne’s most popular riders in the 1940s and 1950s. When he married in 1949, seven thousand people turned up to the church in Clifton Hill. Critically brain-injured in a fall at Caulfield in January 1953, he was back in the saddle by May and won the Melbourne Cup on Wodalla in November. The following year he won the big race for the third time, on Rising Fast. In 1956, on Fighting Force in the Hotham Handicap at Flemington, he finished in a triple dead-heat. His name is forever linked with that of Comic Court, on whom he won nineteen races, but he did not ride the stallion in the 1950 Melbourne Cup - which it won in record time. Purtell began to work in Europe in 1957, winning the Irish Oaks in 1964 and the English Oaks in 1965. By the time he retired from riding in 1966 he had ridden about 1 700 winners. He served as a VRC Stipendiary Steward for fifteen years before retiring altogether in 1981 and moving to the Gold Coast. He was inducted into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame in 2004.
Gift of the Frith family 2013
Accession number: 2013.78
More about the artist and subject
Permanent collection catalogue
On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.