R.G. (Bobby) Morley was not quite nine years old when he arrived from a war-torn England with his parents in 1915.
In those early childhood years he earned pocket money delivering newspapers from the high back of a heavy draught horse through dusty or muddy streets, depending on the season.
But he learned to ride.
He’d been doing the job for some years when the day came that a renowned racing trainer, Tom Tighe, happened to spot the small-framed youngster and offered him the chance to be a jockey.
Morley was a mere 4 feet tall (122 cms) and 4st 7lbs (28.5 kgs) at age fourteen when he began to ride racehorses for Tighe and as such was reputed to be the lightest jockey in the entire country.
He quickly grew and put on weight, but for many years would be able to ride comparatively light and
as his skills developed and natural talent bloomed he became a precious commodity in WA racing.
He won the first of three Perth Cups in his initial year as an apprentice in 1921, steering Earl Of Seafield to victory. He was still a teenager when he won his second, on Mercato, in 1924.
Both wins were for Tom Tighe.
Morley’s first riding premiership came swiftly – 1925/26 with forty-two wins. Then came his dominant period with premierships in 1926/27 (thirty-nine wins), 1927/28 (fifty) and 28/29 (forty).
In the latter season the brilliant young hoop won his third and final Perth Cup on Coolbarro for legendary trainer J.J. Kelly.
In taking out the 1931/32 premiership, Morley rode a state record seventy winners in the one season and there were far less races then. The great Neville Percival held the previous mark, at sixty-two.
By his mid-twenties Morley had ridden over two hundred and fifty winners, with Tom Tighe the greatest beneficiary, however he was also the leading “go-to” rider for J.J. Kelly and Eurythmic’s famous owner, Sir Ernest Lee Steere.
Kelly, who wrote a newspaper column, once described Morley as being one of the two best jockeys he’d ever seen – the other being Wally Sibbritt.
The best horse ridden by Bobby Morley was Maple, winner of the 1928 Caulfield Cup for Lee Steere, Kelly and jockey Billy Duncan. Morley rode the great mare just four times for four consecutive wins, incorporating the 1926 Sires Produce Stakes, 1926 WA. Derby and the 1926 and 27 Strickland Stakes.
Morley also won an Adelaide Cup on Ripique in 1922, won races in Sydney and Melbourne - and in India where he spent five years during World War Two. He also rode in England.
Morley once piloted four successive winners at Helena Vale (July 28, 1928) and another time evenly divided a six race card at Belmont Park with Angus Armanasco (September 19, 1931).
While his achievements were many, Bobby Morley was possessed of a somewhat colourful nature that at times got him into trouble with racing’s powers-that-be. He collected a number of hefty suspensions and disqualifications and consequently spent a significant amount of time on the sidelines. In the latter years of his career his weight tended to climb during these interludes and Morley would often use the breaks to work mining concessions on the Kalgoorlie Goldfields, firstly because he enjoyed it and secondly, to help keep him trim.
He once won a Hannan’s Handicap there at his second ride back from a year out (Beauperian, 1948).
Gold prospecting wasn’t Morley’s only interest, however, away from racing.
At various stages of his life he had a plethora of hobbies, including photography, motor racing, motor boating, yachting and fishing. He was also an amateur musician.
Athletically, he was well above average. A talented tennis player, Morley won a State Hardcourt Doubles Championship one year, was captain of the jockeys’ football team and captain of a Belmont cricket team, in which side he was a batsman, bowler and wicketkeeper! He played golf and squash as well.
Aside from Morley’s three Perth Cup wins and his Adelaide Cup success, his other riding highlights included wins in a Karrakatta Plate, a W.A. Guineas, the Railway Stakes twice, three Sires Produce Stakes, four St. Legers, Easter Handicaps, Metropolitan Handicaps and W.A. Derbies and five Strickland Stakes. He won the Easter Mile/Metropolitan Handicap double on imported galloper Perfect Juggins, in 1928.
During over thirty years in the saddle (he retired in 1952) Bobby Morley won practically every feature race available on the Perth calendar of racing at least once.
One final piece of trivia is that Morley had an association with a stayer called Second Wind that bears special mention. He won a W.A. Derby and a Metropolitan Handicap on the horse but was not on his back when he ran second in the 1930 Melbourne Cup, at odds of 50/1.