Jockeys reflect and pay tribute to the late Tim Bell after he died in Singapore last week
IT was a moment that best summed up Tim Bell’s popularity and it wasn’t the minute’s silence held at the Gold Coast Turf Club.
Don’t get me wrong, the minute’s silence held at 2.30pm on Saturday was a touching tribute to Bell, who died after falling from a high-rise in Singapore last Tuesday.
But the moment that showed just how popular he was came minutes after when a memo was sent around the jockeys room asking hoops if they wanted to say anything to the media about Bell.
The jockeys didn’t have to – they had already paid their respects, had a race to get ready for and, after all, Bell wasn’t a regular rider on the Coast.
But out they came, one after another after another, to reminisce about a 22-year-old jockey whose talent belied his age and whose cheeky personality would be sorely missed.
“The last time I saw Tim was the week he left for Singapore. Nathan Day, Paul Hammersley, Mitch Speers and I decided to take (injured jockey) Davin Green out of hospital to the Pineapple Hotel for lunch and a few beers,” Whiteley said.
“Word had got round and all of sudden we had Jim Byrne, Ryan Wiggins, Will Hulbert, Tim Bell and a few others turn up. About a dozen of us all around this square table having a laugh, beers, lunch and banter.
“After lunch, Timmy went and played the slot machines. I checked up on him as we got him a beer that had been sitting there a while.
“He got a jackpot and went to collect and as he did that Nathan and I just started putting all sorts into his beer – hot chips, mayonnaise, heaps of salt and pepper, onion and tomato.
“Tim came back, sat down and looked at the beer and said, ‘Do you think I’m going to drink that?’
“We said, ‘No, you couldn’t’ and in true style of Tim he picked it up and drank the lot.”
That was typical Tim, always up for a laugh.
Veteran Whiteley, who usually rides at the Gold Coast, was often the butt of the younger Bell’s banter when he ventured to Brisbane.
“If I went to Doomben for one ride he’d say behind the gates, ‘Have you ridden here before?’ or ‘Are you nervous having a town ride?’
“He’d try to get under my skin too, like he’d do to others if you got beat on a short-odds favourite. I would always come back with ‘How’d you go in Melbourne?’, to which he would start laughing and reply, ‘Yeah, good eight rides in three months’.
“Timmy was extremely popular in the room. He had the confidence, the charm, the humour and was just an all-round top kid. There’s no doubt he would have made it anywhere in the world.
“Twenty-five years I’ve been riding now and I’ve only seen three naturally gifted riders – Zac Purton, Michael Rodd and Tim Bell.”
Whiteley’s touching tribute was just one of many at the Gold Coast on Saturday.
Jason Taylor, Dan Griffin, Michael Hellyer and Jackson Morris recalled how he was the life of the jockeys room – always poking fun at himself to make others laugh.
His death has been felt far and wide. In tributes that Bell himself would have loved, funny videos and photos of the late jockey have dominated social media over the past week.
Grafton jockey Matthew Paget had known Bell for years and always admired his drive to be the best.
“He was the most confident person I’ve met,” he said.
“I met him when he first started riding around Tamworth and I said, ‘Let’s put the training wheels on and let’s walk before we can run’.
“He set himself goals and his goal was to win the NSW leading country apprentice and he did that and then he said, ‘Now I want to be Brisbane’s leading rider’.
“When he achieved that (in 2013-14), he was sitting around at Grafton races one day and I said to him, ‘You will dominate up there for years’.
“He said, ‘Nah, I don’t want to ride in Brisbane and I want to be the best in the world and I want to ride in Hong Kong’.
“He was taking all before him in Singapore, as I knew he would, and that was the stepping stone to (Hong Kong) and then this tragedy happens.”
A date is yet to be set for Bell’s funeral.
Story courtesy Brad Davidson Gold Coast Bulletin