Racecaller Greg Miles summed it up perfectly when champion jockey Darren Gauci crossed the line on Longeron in his final race ride.
“Thank you for the memories Gauch, you are a legend,” Miles said after Longeron ran in the Darren Gauci Farewell Handicap on Saturday.
The result may not have been the perfect send-off for 51-year-old Gauci who retired on Saturday after a racing career of 35 years which yielded more than 2500 winners.
A guard of honour that included family members as well as current and former jockeys and racing administrators met Gauci who shed an emotional tear in the saddling enclosure before his last race.
Longeron was the final of Gauci’s three rides on Saturday and came after he won the second race, the Robert Hunter Handicap aboard Goodwill.
Gauci said after announcing his retirement he believed he had another two years of riding left but the opportunity to join Racing Victoria as an apprentices’ coach was too good to pass up.
“When I went past the post all I wanted to do was keep riding,” an emotional Gauci said.
“It’s been a whirlwind of a week and I suppose it’s finally hit me.”
Gauci said he was touched by the support of fellow jockeys who all stayed behind after finishing their riding commitments.
“I’m very proud of them. They’re such hard competitors on the track but we’re all such good mates,” he said.
“They’ve given me a perfect send-off.”
Gauci’s father Bill said racing had always been in the jockey’s blood and that he he many nervous years watching him compete.
But he got a special thrill after seeing Goodwill win earlier in the day.
“I thought he had got beaten but then I saw the number go up and that was amazing,” he said.
Gauci’s wife Karen said she was happy his riding career had finished.
“It was amazing for him to get a win on the day,” she said.
“I’m just so happy to see the day finish.”
Stephen Baster, chairman of the Victorian Jockeys’ Association, said he had not heard one of his members speak a bad word of Gauci.
“They’d all be very happy if he kept riding because he’s a thorough gentleman,” Baster said.
“Everyone’s sad to see him go but we’re rapt that we’ll get to see him at the races still.”
Damien Oliver, who won the final race on the $2.50 favourite Duke Of Brunswick, said Gauci was someone he looked up to when he first came to Melbourne from Perth while winning trainer Mick Price said he was barracking for Gauci to a certain extent.
“He represented racing in the best possible fashion,” Price said.