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Champion jockey William Pike has admitted he could be forced to retire over his vaccine stance as Western Australia’s dominant rider was banned from Perth Cup day at Ascot on Saturday.
Speaking for the first time since forfeiting rides at the meeting over the WA government’s mandate all racegoers be double vaccinated, Pike conceded he wasn’t sure if he would ever ride again as he joined a select group of elite Australian athletes refusing to be vaccinated.
Willie Pike says retirement is an option over his vaccine stance.Credit:Getty Images
Perth’s leviathan owner Bob Peters, who has been the backbone of Pike’s success for many years, admitted the rider was only “50-50” to return to the saddle in 2022, and it appears the man himself isn’t sure what the new year will bring.
“My future is very uncertain right now,” Pike said in an interview with Freedom Media WA. “I really don’t know what my future’s going to be like.
“I would love to keep riding. I would love to stay on top for as long as I can until one of the young guns come along and boot me off my perch.
“I really don’t want to leave it, but under the circumstances right now with the rules and different things in place, it’s getting harder and harder to go out and do my daily job.”
Pike has generated a cult following across Australia for his saddle exploits, and enjoys huge popularity with east coast punters betting late into Saturday evening on the Perth races.
And he’s carved out a career as one of the country’s best jockeys, leading the Australian premiership this season with 113 winners until standing down. James McDonald is a distant second.
But as rumours of his vaccine position swirled the racing industry, Pike kept quiet until an interview was released with Freedom Media WA on Saturday.
The organisation’s Facebook page includes a video of a gathering outside the WA governor’s residence on Christmas Day in which attendees listened to The Last Post and laid down work uniforms of people who are no longer employed over vaccine mandates.
Pike said it was “tragic” for him not to be attending Perth Cup, which was won by the Peters-owned Midnight Blue, the horse he was supposed to ride.
“If you walked up to people right now and asked them why did they have it, they would say, ‘because otherwise I couldn’t work, because otherwise I can’t travel’,” Pike said. “It doesn’t feel participating then, it feels like you’re cornered.”
Carlton’s Liam Jones announced his retirement from the AFL last year after opting not to be vaccinated, while the Bulldogs split with John Asiata in the NRL over his COVID-19 stance.
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