Mark Sestich has his name etched in racing history as the first jockey to win WA’s inaugural $1 million race, when he rode Fair Sir to victory in the 1987 Australasian (1600m) at Ascot.
Sestich had returned home from a stint in Singapore to take up the role as the Nos 1 stable rider for Rothwells’ banker and controversial owner Laurie Connell, after Connell had split with champion jockey Rod Kemp.
The Australasian was staged by the WA Turf Club to coincide with Alan Bond’s defence of the America’s Cup at Fremantle.
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Fair Sir, was trained by Connell’s private trainer Brian “Buster” O’Malley, after the son of champion New Zealand sire, Sir Tristram from Fairy Walk (Le Filou), was bought as a yearling in NZ.
Sestich developed a great rapport with Fair Sir riding him into third place in Australasia’s weight-for-age championship, behind Rubiton and Our Poetic Prince in the 1987 Cox Plate (2040m).
He steered Fair Sir to his other Group 1 placings in in Melbourne that spring in the Underwood Stakes (2000m), 2nd to Rubiton; in the Turnbull Stakes (2000m), 2nd to Vo Rogue; and in the Caulfield Stakes (2000m), 2nd to Drought.
Sestich rode Fair Sir 14 times for three wins, six seconds and two thirds.
Sestich also won the second ever $1m race held at Ascot when he rode the brilliant two-year-old Paklani in the 1990 Million Dollar Thriller (1200m).
He won the 1989 $500,000 Burswood Breeders (1500m) on Carry A Smile, who was owned by Heytesbury Stud proprietor and millionaire Robert Holmes a Court
Sestich rode five Derby winners, including an Australian Derby (1991) and WA Derby (1992) on Heroicity, a 1997 WATC Derby on Hot Jules and two WA derbies on Belele (1989) and Rare Flyer (1982).
Rare Flyer ran third to Kingston Town in the Western Mail Classic that same season.
He missed riding Heroicity in the 1992 Group 1 BMW (2000m), because of a riding suspension.
Sestich rode overseas in Singapore, Malaysia and Mauritius. He won the 1986 Singapore Gold Cup on St Gallen for trainer Charlie Reed.
When Sesitch’s term with Connell ended after the fire sale of Connell’s horses and properties following the 1987 stock market crash, he teamed up with Holmes a Court and former WATC chairman and noted breeder Sir Ernest Lee-Steere.
That association provided notable wins in the Karrakatta Plate on Hold That Smile (1988) and Lady Kariba (1991), Carry A Smile in the Lee-Steere, Winterbottom and Prince Of Wales stakes, So Dashing in the 1990 WA Guineas, Send A Sign in the 1989 WA Sires Stakes, Another Omen in the 1987 Champion Fillies Stakes for Holmes a Court and Australian and WA derbies on Heroicity and WA Derby and WA St Leger on Belele for Lee-Steere.
Sestich was a leading apprentice, serving his time with John Davison, he rode his first win at Ascot for on Tokay, Len Pike and Kevin Williams.
He won the Metropolitan jockeys’ title four times in 1988-89, 89-90, 90-91 and 91-92.
His career was pot-holed by injuries. He fell from Karasi in the 2000 Cox Stakes at Ascot, where seven riders went down, and was lucky not to be killed.
Sestich suffered a burst bowel, bruised pancreas, three broken ribs and injured his knee.
He thanked the safety vest for saving his life and the quick action of the paramedics.
It was during his recuperation period that Sestich decided to have a partial knee replacement and he was sidelined for a year.
He returned in a blaze riding 12 winners in two months.
It was to be another serious fall this time at track work at Ascot in April 2002 which was to force him to hang up his saddle for good.
He now works as foreman for long time friend and leading trainer Neville Parnham.
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