The ultimate professional, Rodney “Rocket” Kemp 100 percent dedicated his life to being a jockey. Always a humble man and a gentleman, Kemp possessed innate judgement and could lift horses with his sheer strength.
Kemp began his apprenticeship with Jim Zinnicka, the father of trainer Kay Miller, who won the 1987 Railway Stakes with Miss Muffet and two Perth Cups with Ullyatt (1986) and Ros Reef (1995), and father-in-law to Caulfield and Melbourne cups winning jockey John Miller.
Champion apprentice in 1971-72 with 90 wins, 72 seconds and 75 thirds he went on to take out his first city jockeys’ premiership in 1980-81 with 51 wins. That year he was the state’s leading rider with 123 overall winners.
Kemp won four titles in succession from 1983 until 1987, riding for trainers Brian “Buster” O’Malley and Ted Hickling, and in 1984-85 winning the Perth Cup on Phizam, Railway Stakes on Eastern Temple and the Australian Derby on Importune. It took fellow WA Racing Hall of Fame Inductee Paul Harvey (2014) in 1996-97 to break Kemp’s WA record riding 114 city winners and 165 winners overall.
Tragically at the pinnacle of his career in 1987 Kemp, 33, fell from Cheridge at a mid-week Belmont meeting, causing such injuries that he was forced into retirement. Despite this he remains one of the cheeriest people on a racetrack and has taken to horse ownership with great success, with winners such as Like An Eagle and Beat The Storm who won the Group 3 Belmont Sprint.
A riding legacy of eleven Group One winners and a string of Group Two, Group Three and major Black Type to his name, Kalgoorlieborn Rodney Kemp is one of the best jockeys WA has ever seen despite his career being cut short.
PRINCIPAL RACE WINS