When an infamous drug importer died in central Sydney this week, it brought back to life the bizarre rise and fall of a legendary Kiwi jockey.

The body of 76-year-old Victor Spink was found in a hotel, the likely cause of death being a drug overdose.

Spink was also known as Mr C, the central figure in a racing scandal which badly damaged the reputation of the revered jockey Jim Cassidy.

The 55-year-old Cassidy, who retired three years ago, had a glittering career and will always be remembered for riding Kiwi to victory in the 1983 Melbourne Cup.


It was no ordinary win in no ordinary race.

With 1000 metres left, Hutt Valley's Cassidy put Kiwi into overdrive from the back of the field. It was such an amazing late run that many including race commentators only noticed the Waverly wonder near the finish line.

Jockey Jim Cassidy in 1998. Photo / Photosport
Jockey Jim Cassidy in 1998. Photo / Photosport

Just over a decade later, the reputation of Cassidy — who also won the 1997 Melbourne Cup on Might and Power — was drifting back through the field.

Australian Federal Police were on to Spink, a robber who had become a major heroin and hashish importer and punted millions on races.

Phone taps revealed he was part of what was described as a Sydney race-fixing operation, and Cassidy was one of the people on the other end of the line.

"All I ever did was ring jockeys and get their tips...there was no race fixation, I was always joking, gambling was part of my business back then," Spink was reported as saying.

In a recorded conversation, Spink tells Cassidy he will give him $20,000 from winnings to split between four "crooked" jockeys, as the Sydney Morning Herald reported it.

"It may as well be in your pocket than all those other pockets, or even the bookies' pockets," says Spink.


"Exactly," replies Cassidy.

Victor Spink died this week. Photo / Supplied
Victor Spink died this week. Photo / Supplied

Cassidy, known as Pumper because of his riding style, has always denied committing any race fixing. He was suspended for three years, later reduced to 21 months, for breaking race rules by selling tips to Spink and bringing the sport into disrepute.

It was a very public dip in the career of a legend, a winner of Australia's grand slam and more than 100 group one races, and one of racing's true characters.

It wasn't the end of matters either.

In 2001, Cassidy was questioned by Victorian racing stewards about police tapes in which he is heard speaking to another criminal figure Tony Mokbel, a famed Melbourne punter who Cassidy later acknowledged was a good friend.

While suspended, Cassidy — who still lives across the ditch — took up labouring to make ends meet. He is still remembered as a brilliant jockey with a colourful personality.

On the eve of last year's Melbourne Cup, Cassidy told reporters he was thoroughly enjoying retirement, and open to acting as a mentor for young jockeys.

Now retired, Jim Cassidy is open to mentoring young jockeys. Photo / Photosport
Now retired, Jim Cassidy is open to mentoring young jockeys. Photo / Photosport

That 1983 Melbourne Cup lives in the memory, his and many others.

"I dreamt about winning the Melbourne Cup and all of a sudden I was in a position I could do it," he told the Hills Shire Times last year.

"I couldn't believe it. I was confident, arrogant, I loved Kiwi. He was a great horse.

"It was very proud being a Kiwi jockey and a horse named Kiwi — you couldn't ask for anything better."

This particular Mr C always sounds upbeat, retains his racing connection by part-owning a few horses, and has been inducted into various halls of fame.

Life was not so good for another Mr C.

Spink — an example of the criminal elements which play a concerning part in Australian sport — still had some of his millions.

But he could not kick an alcohol and drug addiction and was reported to be in an erratic state leading up to his death this week.