The racing world is in mourning after famous Group 1-winning jockey Peter Mertens died aged 58 after a long battle with cancer. Mertens, who rode more than 2100 winners, including seven Group 1 races, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2020.
The man dubbed ‘The King of Gippsland’ is survived by his wife Gulcin, six children – including son Beau Mertens, a top young jockey – and three stepchildren.
Primarily racing in Victoria and South Australia, Mertens won his first Group 1 in 1999 aboard Rustic Dream in the Futurity Stakes, while he also enjoyed great success riding for legendary trainer Bart Cummings – winning the 2007 Mackinnon Stakes and 2008 Australian Cup.
The bright and bubbly hoop was forced into retirement in 2014 after a horror fall that left him with a broken collarbone, fractured ankle, collapsed lung and ribs.
He said of that sickening accident last year that ‘worse things can happen in life’ – unfortunately, they did. After being given six months to live, Mertens was forced to endure intense chemotherapy and daily injections to “be here a little longer”. The determination that stood him in such good stead on the track enabled him to fight what he was told was ‘the worst possible cancer you can get’.
‘I’ve never done things in halves. ‘You’ve got to remain positive and take whatever you can,’ he told Racing.com last year. “There’s a lady with a similar type of cancer in a similar spot to mine from America who has lived for 20 years. If she can do it, why can’t I?’
‘Plus, I want to be around longer to keep reminding Beau I’m still the King of the Country Cups.’
‘My friends, Family, and, in particular, Beau is my inspiration. That’s what drives me. ‘He still has a lot to go, but geez, he makes me proud.’
We send our deepest condolences to Peters’s family and friends during this time.