Crio’sQ?- from The Filipino Fireball to The Fireman… racing monikers

PeterB’s reference to the jockey known as “Autumn Leaves” is the inspiration for this week’s topical Crio’sQ?

Les Boots’ claim to infamy was his seemingly inexhaustible capacity to fall off horses!

The old rascal was a colourful raconteur and a radio interview, pairing him with a compliant and fitful Bert Bryant, became folklore.

Here’s some of the audio:- (

Various alleged accounts of the transcript survive – here’s one, supposedly sourced from the Goondiwindi Argus!… worth a read.

‘The new jumping season has commenced and for many years a radio interview between legendary race caller, Bert Bryant and jockey, Les Boots used to be played. The interview ended with Bert unable to continue because of laughter.

It became so famous it was played not only at the beginning of the Victorian jumps season but also on Grand National day.

Les claimed he rode for around 18 years but spent 12 of them in hospital. Les said, “I had 39 rides over the jumps and fell off 40 times. I once fell off, caught the horse and remounted, but fell off at the next fence to make up the 40 falls. I broke just about every bone in my body, arms, legs, wrists, collar-bones, shoulders, the lot. Bookmakers used to put up 100/1 about my mounts no matter how good their form read. Never once did I complete the course over the jumps, in fact I never got past the winning post the first time around.

“Once the South Australian Jockey Club was going to bar me from riding because I was putting too big a strain on their Workers Compensation Fund. My wife used to wrap my pyjamas in a brown paper bag and put them with my riding gear, which was embarrassing when other jockeys spotted them. She ended up barring me from taking the kids on the merry-go-round at the local shows after I fell off three times.

“The nurses at the Adelaide General Hospital used to buy the racing papers, not to have a bet but to check if I had a ride, so they could make up my usual bed in advance. I once fell off at the first fence breaking my leg, then fell out of the Ambulance on the way back to the casualty room, then while they were carrying me across the lawn I fell off the stretcher. It got a bit much when the starter mounted his stand and just before releasing the field he’d call out ‘We’ll come around to the Hospital through the week Les and bring you some fruit’.

“I’ll always remember one day at Victoria Park. It was a misty foggy day and I fell off at the first jump and being a bit winded was lying on the track waiting for the Ambulance to arrive when through the fog I heard this voice saying, ‘I think we’ll have to shoot him.’ I beat the Ambulance back to the jockey’s room where they sedated me and explained they were talking about the horse.

“I gave the game away after a bad fall off a horse called Parla when I broke my neck and spent two years in Hospital.

I never did realize my life’s ambition to ride in the English Grand National at Aintree. My wife cancelled my Passport, she reckoned I’d be the first jockey to drown at the water jump”.’


But, as you do when talking racing, I digress!

This week’s Q? is to highlight some of the memorable nicknames in racing.

Here are some to kickstart your memory-

“Handbrake” Harry White – punters were brutal back then and if H.White “did a Zac” (rode cold), he was widely berated.

Ray “The Preserver” Benson – this racecaller loved to watch one work home impressively and, in the run through, state “it’ll keep”!

Phar Lap – “Big Red”

There’s a rich history in our “game”. Punters, tipsters, trainers…

Help us to commemorate some of the great nicknames in Racing.


  1. Cowshedend says

    Fantastic Crio, love racings history, so iconic yet laconic, the links of Great horses with names,Bernborough, with shifty owner Azzalin ‘The Dazzlin’ Romano, and the mysterious ‘woman in Black’ who kept punting it till it finally lost.
    ‘Colourful racing identitities’ such as ‘Squizzy’ Taylor, a pot shot at Phar Lap and burning the Grandstand at Caulfield.
    Knew 2 unrelated blokes who both died in their nineties with the surname King, who were both nicknamed ‘Shadow’ after the unlucky Shadow King who had 2 2nds 2 3rds and a 4th from it’s 6 cup starts

  2. Cox Plate week we have to acknowledge The Babe – what a record in the WFA Championship

  3. Cowshedend says

    Another huge punter ‘The Butterfly’

  4. Not familiar with The Butterfly.
    Is it correct that Eddie Birchley was The Fireman because he attacked the red figures – long odds on pops on early races?
    Gary Roberts was a big punter for a while. What was his tag?

  5. Cowshedend says

    That was the story i had heard about ‘the fireman’.
    The Butterfly was John Mort Green, amazing bloke.. “float like a butterfly sting like a bee” ,was big here and the UK

  6. I always enjoy seeing Kevin “dummy” Myers name in print and also Paddy Payne speaking on camera about getting a few horses from dummy, generally in the jumping season – certainly no dummy on the punt.

    I struggle to remember a lot of the punters nicknames from my time at the track but in Adelaide we had a guy who was big on punting the various totes for overs and had a very high turnover and a few staff helping out: he was called Dribbles or “the dribbler”

  7. shabby bugger wasn’t he?
    Funniest nickname there was “The White Ant” – not even behind his back…eventually the pest (a bookie) was just always referred as that!
    Jason “Stubby” Holder is probably the most universally used in SA racing nowadays.

  8. Apparently there was a bookie nicknamed “the Doctor “. Anytime someone wanted to bet with him he would advise “you’ll get better”.

    If you have ever read some of the many books on Bill Waterhouse, you will have come across stories of his betting duels with Felipe Ysmael (aka the Filipino Fireball though he preferred his original nickname of “The Babe”) and Frank Duvall (aka The Hong Kong Tiger).

    Here’s a good summary of The Filipino Fireball

  9. Of course some of the better known ones are:
    The Little General – T J Smith
    Sugar Lips – C S Hayes
    Billy Idol – Shane Dye
    The Enforcer – Mick Dittman
    The Long Fellow – Lester Piggott (he was 5 foot 8 inches)
    Cotton Fingers – George Moore (also known for his whistle)

  10. and Jimmy “ring-a-ding-ding” Cassidy – The Pumper
    Grant Cooksley was known as The Iceman
    Craig Newitt is only ever called Froggy

    what about some of those great names that the newspaper tipsters used to adopt – Jimmy Meek was always known as Skip as his “pseudonym” as a trackwatcher was Skipton

  11. Alliteration is the last resort of the desperate writer/sub-editor. Many great examples above. I try to only use it a half dozen times in most of my Almanac pieces.
    How about this one from Globe Derby Park in the 70’s Crio – “the Superman of the Sulky” – every time Max Evans punched home a winner. A Ray Fewings-ism?
    Steve Cauthen the great American jockey who rode with a lot of success in Europe, was a precocious talent – hence always Kid Cauthen or “The Kid”.
    Demon Darby Munro (just before my time).
    Crio – I defer to your expertise in identifying the true “Autumn Leaves”, but I still reckon it became a bit of an all-purpose monicker for jumps jockeys who had a few falls in quick succession. Bobby Cox, Bobby Gibson (no he played in the back pocket for Torrens), Bobby Gray??? I swear I heard it used at Vic Park in the 70’s. Please tell me that a few of my neurones remain unimpaired.
    And what is the origin of Elvis? Surely there’s a yarn there, and its not his real monicker.

  12. surname is Costello

  13. Although I never witnessed it, apparently there was a punter in Adelaide that used to bet mainly at the dogs and would throw a $1000 or so on them many years ago, he was called “The Dancer” because every time he backed a winner he would come down from watching the race back into the betting ring holding his tickets high in the air and jump around the ring like a lunatic, not sure he was dancing but probably as close to dancing as you get at the doggies.
    Not sure how accurate this story is but a friend of mine insists that it’s fact. Said you had to see it to believe it.

  14. Correct on all counts, the dancer liked odds on, he was also at the races always dressed in a dinner suit and bow tie.
    Unfortunately he advertised himself too much when he won and had a few unfortunate incidents where someone decided to relieve him of the winnings

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