The lack of a formal education proved no hindrance to the riding career of jockey Robert (Bobby) Lewis.
Bobby Lewis (1878-1947) was the ninth child and fourth son of Welsh miner Thomas Lewis and his British wife, Martha Ann Miller.
Bobby acquired his love of horses from his mother, who reputedly was a proficient horsewoman, which is not completely remarkable given that horses were part of everyday life in the late 1800s.
Bobby's father in all probability contributed to Bobby's prowess by prohibiting him from using a saddle. An older brother whose occupation was breaking horses instructed Bobby early on, providing him along the way with an astute knowledge of horse breeding and a keen insight as a judge of horses.
History would prove that these traits acquired from his family more than compensated Bobby Lewis for abandoning his formal education by the age of 10 having never become completely literate.
Bobby Lewis's first racing victories came before the turn of the 19 th century, when he won at a country track in 1892, and then notched his first metropolitan win in 1895. He sojourned briefly in England with his trainer in 1899, but missed his homeland and returned shortly thereafter.
This led to what was to become one of the most productive partnerships in history which featured Lewis teaming up with trainer Jim Scobie for the next four decades. The pair also linked with Eric Connolly himself, forming an alliance that dominated racing for the best part of an entire generation.
Bobby Lewis was most fortunate in that he seldom had to fight to maintain his weight at an acceptable level. Not until late in his career, when he wasted in order to ride Trivalve to victory in the 1927 Melbourne Cup, did Lewis ever have to struggle to make weight.
Lewis is tied for all-time Melbourne Cup victories at four, matched only by Harry White. White did not win the first of his victories until almost fifty years after Bobby Lewis won the last of his. Bobby Lewis was to participate in his thirty-second Cup two years later, when he piloted the immortal Phar Lap to a controversial third.
Bobby Lewis's Cup wins came in 1902 aboard The Victory, 1915 on Patrobas, Artilleryman in 1919, and Trivalve in 1927. He won numerous other high classification races as well, including a remarkable eight victories in both the Victoria Derby and VRC St. Legers. Add to that impressive statistic five Fisher Plates.
Many racing aficionados maintain that Lewis was the best they had ever seen. He was known as a virtuoso who rode with a soft touch and rode long to give himself a clear view of the goings on around him during a race.
Another remarkable facet to Lewis's record is that he served only one suspension for an incident at Randwick in 1925 that most thought was no fault of his.
He retired in 1938 and died 31 March 1947 after forty six years in the saddle. Bobby Lewis rode over 900 winners during that time and was an astounding 60 years of age when he took his last ride.
Bobby Lewis was inducted into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame in the inaugural season of 2002.