Richard 'Darby' McCarthy was named Aboriginal and Torres Strait Citizen of the Year in Toowoomba in 2016.
Richard 'Darby' McCarthy was named Aboriginal and Torres Strait Citizen of the Year in Toowoomba in 2016. Bev Lacey

Tributes flow for legendary Toowoomba racing identity

THE Toowoomba community is paying tribute to legendary Toowoomba racing identity, Richard 'Darby' McCarthy.

Mayor Paul Antonio said one of Australia's best jockeys had left a lasting legacy that would never be forgotten.

"On behalf of Council and the wider community, I am deeply saddened to hear of Darby's passing. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends in this difficult time," Cr Antonio said.

"Darby had a distinguished career, achieving both national and international success. He was particularly dominant in Queensland, winning three Stradbroke Handicaps.

"He was a trail blazer in the racing industry and was inducted into the Queensland Racing Hall of Fame in 2004. His achievements were recently celebrated at the Darby McCarthy Race Day in Toowoomba.

"While he wasn't born in the Toowoomba Region, he resided here in his later life and made a major imprint while he lived here.

"He was an inspiration to the Indigenous community with many sporting stars across the country often praising him, including former Gold-medallist Cathy Freeman, who resided in his house while she was at boarding school in Toowoomba.

"Darby was an exceptional athlete and an even better human-being. It's truly sad we have lost such a wonderful person."

Racing Minister Stirling Hinchcliffe said Darby was "one of the finest athletes ever produced in Queensland, if not hte nation".

"He was a real boy from the bush whose talent as a jockey surpassed much of anything our racing industry had ever seen," Mr Hinchcliffe said.

Darby spent his final years on the Darling Downs and continued to serve as a role model, particularly for the Indigenous community, and was inducted in the Aboriginal and Islander Sports Hall of Fame.

Racing Queensland CEO Brendan Parnell said McCarthy's contribution to the racing industry transcended his feats on the track.

"Darby McCarthy's feats in and out of the saddle are legendary as he blazed a trail across Queensland before taking on the world," Mr Parnell said.

"He inspired a generation of athletes that anything was possible and continued to serve as a role model in more recent years.

"He thoroughly deserves his position in the Hall of Fame and he will be sorely missed."

In the Darby McCarthy: Against all Odds book, Olympic gold medallist Cathy Freeman, who would stay with McCarthy's family while she attended boarding school in Toowoomba, reflected on the legendary jockey.

"I learnt some precious lessons from Darby who taught me in his own charismatic and crazy way what it takes to be a real contender, to rise above everything and everyone else to be your very best," Freeman said.