Racing mourns the loss of Alan Barton

Alan Barton’s crowning moment came in 2016, when winning the time-honoured Bong Bong Cup on the James Cummings-trained Alfred The Great. Photo: Bradley Photos.

The racing industry is mourning the sudden and tragic passing of renowned trackwork rider and picnic hoop, Alan Barton aged 57.

The Bathurst-based jockey, who passed away on Friday, made a name for himself as a trackwork rider for the likes of Max Lees and James Cummings, and most recently worked at Bathurst for good friend Paul Theobald.

Barton’s crowning moment came in 2016, when winning the time-honoured Bong Bong Cup on the James Cummings-trained Alfred The Great, while he enjoyed good success on the likes of Red Marauder, Zaphod,Feng Shui, Rise Me Up, Born to Power, Attilius, and Centabeel.

Former trainer and jockey Ken Noble was simply devastated by the loss.

“He was one of the best in the industry, and he would give you the shirt of his back; you wouldn’t meet a nicer bloke,” Noble said. 

“He had a great set of hands, and Max Lees wouldn’t have had him there if he wasn’t a good trackwork rider, and he used to ride all the hard-pulling horses, because he was so good with them.”

For Noble, he said it was Barton’s friendly demeanour that made him such a likable character. 

“I used to play a lot of golf with him, and he’s just a genuine bloke, Noble said. 

“He would do anything for anyone at any time, and drop anything to help someone out, and he would take people in under his wing and help them out.”

Another good friend of Alan Barton was Paul Theobald, with the pair combining for a lot of success on the picnic circuit. 

“People used to ask me why I was taking my good horses to the picnics, and I would tell them it was because I wanted Alan to ride them,” Theobald said. 

“He would ride the horse and get off, and tell you where to tweak it, and what he thought was and wasn’t working, and I would make those changes and take that same horse back to the TAB races and it would win.”

Theobald touched on Barton’s ‘soft hands’ and his ability as a trackwork rider. 

“I remember once, I went up for the James Kirby (Handicap) with Dragon’s Keep, and he was up there riding trackwork, and I asked Al, ‘do you want to ride his trackwork?,” Theobald said. 

“He was out there working him, and I was standing next to Tracey Bartley, and he asked, ‘who’s that riding your horse’, and I said, ‘that’s Alan Barton’, and Tracey said ‘he’s holding a cup of coffee’, and there he was, riding the horse with a loose reign and a cup of coffee in his hand, and that’s just the kind of bloke he was – he just had an affinity with the horses.

“Plus, he was always very obliging, and it’s a sad loss, and he should have been a mentor for the kids in the apprentice school.” 

In his own way, Barton did mentor young jockeys, and Theobald explained that he helped a young Jamie Gibbons. 

“If you wanted help, he was the first person to put his hand up and money was never the reason why,” Theobald said. 

“I remember when Jamie Gibbons was learning how to ride; Alan would drive from Gulgong every day to teach him how to race ride.” 

In a fitting end, Barton’s last victory came in 2020, and it was a special one for Theobald, with the pair combining to win with Dobe Super in the 1000m Maiden Plate at Bligh Picnics. 

“We were friends for 30 years, and he won his last race on my horse, and he signed the silks ‘To Paul, love Alan Barton’, and my Mrs draped those silks over my chair,” Theobald said. 

“It’s just a tragedy. He rode trackwork that morning, and he was teaching my daughter how to race ride, and he never came back, and it’s real loss to the whole industry.” 

Col Hodges watched Barton race many times at the picnics, and he said you wouldn’t get a more professional jockey.

“He was never one of the superstars, but he was reliable and always there to help,” Hodges said. 

“I found him really, really good to talk to. He was always well-liked, always polite, and well-mannered, and he was the first one to drop what he was doing to help anyone else out, and that is just the kind of person he was.”

Hodges shared his own special memory of Barton, which typified the late jockey. 

“I went up to Bathurst one day, and up in my caller’s box was a proper heater up there, and a jug, some tea bags, biscuits, and I found out later on that it was Alan that had taken the stuff up there,” Hodges said. 

“It wasn’t something he had to do, and it only happened six months ago, and it is one of my last memories of Alan, and that is just the type of person he was.”

For readers interested, the funeral service is yet to be finalised but is most likely to be held in Mudgee.