Champion jockey Hugh Bowman was calling to check on his distressed wife, who has lost two brothers to suicide in two years, when he was caught using a mobile phone while driving.
Bowman, who rode the great mare Winx to 30 straight victories, revealed the impact of the dual family tragedies when he faced a Sydney court on Tuesday.
The 39-year-old – who has a ‘horrendous’ traffic record – was caught using his mobile phone while driving in Sydney’s eastern suburbs on December 3 last year.
Bowman was in his wife Christine’s blue Toyota Kluger station wagon when he was spotted driving about 30km/h in a 50km/h zone in Clovelly Road, Clovelly at 9.25am.
Champion jockey Hugh Bowman was calling to check on his distressed wife, who has lost two brothers to suicide in two years, when he was caught using a mobile phone while driving
The deaths of Bowman’s brothers-in-law had caused him to keep in constant touch with his devastated wife every day over the phone. Bowman is pictured with wife Christine
Hugh and Christine Bowman have two daughters, Bambi, seven, and Paige, five (pictured)
When police confronted the racing Hall of Famer about holding a mobile telephone in his left hand in front of his face he said, ‘Oh, I was just making a voice recording.’
Bowman pleaded guilty to driving while using a phone when not permitted and in his lawyer’s words admitted his 24-year driving history left ‘a lot to be desired’.
Solicitor Wayne Pasterfield told Waverley Local Court his client had faced great personal difficulties over the past 18 months, including the suicides of two of his Irish-born wife’s brothers.
Those deaths had caused Bowman to keep in constant touch with his wife every day over the phone. ‘Obviously she’s been devastated,’ Mr Pasterfield said.
At the time of the offence Bowman had had been trying to call Christine but his Bluetooth had disconnected and he was ringing a friend to seek instructions on fixing it.
‘He’s using the mobile phone to get instructions on how not to use the mobile phone,’ Mr Pasterfield said.
Bowman, 39, has a ‘horrendous’ traffic record and was caught using his mobile phone while driving in Sydney’s eastern suburbs on December 3 last year
Bowman partnered Winx for 32 of her 37 wins between 2014 and 2019, including winning the WS Cox plate a record-breaking four times in a row (2015-2018). He is pictured on Winx
Bowman met Christine Walsh when she moved to Sydney after spending the spring of 2002 tending to Irish trainer Dermot Weld’s Melbourne Cup runners Vinnie Roe and Media Puzzle.
She is a former strapper, trackwork rider and producer for TVN’s race meetings in Sydney. The couple has two daughters – Bambi, seven, and Paige, five.
Who is Hugh Bowman?
James Hugh Bowman was born in Dunedoo, in central western NSW.
He rode his first winner in 1996 and has 2,128 career first placings.
Bowman partnered Winx for 32 of her 37 wins between 2014 and 2019, including winning the W.S. Cox Plate a record-breaking four times in a row.
He has booted home the winners of the ATC Australian Oaks five times, the Queen Elizabeth Stakes four times and this year’s Golden Slipper.
Bowman has won $188,928,958 in prize money for his mounts’ owners and secured the Sydney jockeys’ premiership four times.
He has taken out major races in Hong Kong and Japan and is fifth on the list of Australian Group 1-winning jockeys.
Bowman was declared the Longines World’s Best Jockey in 2017 and is a member of the Australian Racing Hall of Fame.
Bowman was riding in Japan when he had to make a mercy dash to Christine’s homeland of Ireland after her brother Robert took his own life in May 2018.
It was reported in January that Bowman had stood down from two Sydney meetings after another of Christine’s brothers was found dead in Mildura.
Bowman said then he and his wife had travelled to the north-west Victorian town to identify the body and they were still waiting for a report from the coroner.
Mr Pasterfield said when the mobile phone offence occurred Bowman had been pulling into the side of the road to call his friend about getting the Bluetooth to work.
He said Bowman’s driving record was ‘horrendous’ but he had recently completed a traffic offender’s program and needed his licence.
‘He can’t rely on his record,’ Mr Pasterfield told the court. ‘It’s a terrible record and he concedes that.’
Mr Pasterfield said Bowman was required to be at trackwork at 4am at racecourses including Warwick Farm and Rosehill in western Sydney and had to attend meetings in regional New South Wales.
He was living in self-isolation at a flat in Alison Road, Randwick, near Sydney’s main racecourse, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While horse racing had continued going throughout the coronavirus lockdowns, strict social-distancing protocols meant Bowman could not employ a driver and had to be behind the wheel himself.
He also ran a farm at Dunedoo in central NSW, where he grew up, and needed to be able to drive there.
‘Without his licence, particularly in the current climate, it’s impossible for him to work,’ Mr Pasterfield said.
When police confronted the racing Hall of Famer about holding a mobile telephone in front of his face in his left hand he said, ‘Oh, I was just making a voice recording’
A conviction for driving while using a mobile phone would lead to a six-month suspension of Bowman’s licence, meaning he could potentially not ride for the rest of the year.
Magistrate Jacqueline Trad said she had to consider other members of the community when deciding if Bowman could stay on the road.
‘Mr Bowman’s traffic record doesn’t assist him,’ she said.
Ms Trad accepted the hoop’s explanation for how he was caught using the phone based on the limited facts before her but was nonetheless unimpressed.
‘Quite frankly, it was a completely ridiculous thing to be doing considering what you were trying to do was to work out how not to use the phone while driving,’ she said.
Ms Trad read two testimonials written on Bowman’s behalf and noted one referee had claimed the hoop respected the road rules.
‘I think it’s quite an extraordinary comment,’ she said.
Christine Bowman is a former strapper, trackwork rider and producer for TVN’s race meetings in Sydney. She is pictured with her husband after he won the 2018 Chipping Norton Stakes on Winx
Ms Trad said Bowman had not previously demonstrated an understanding of his responsibilities on the road but hoped he had learnt from the traffic offender’s program.
By placing him on an 18-month community release order without recording a conviction Ms Trad allowed Bowman to keep his licence.
‘If you commit any offences I’ll revoke it,’ she said.
Asked if he understood, Bowman said: ‘Yes, Your Honour’.
Bowman partnered Winx to 32 of her 37 wins between 2014 and 2019, including taking out the W.S. Cox plate a record-breaking four times in a row (2015-2018).
He has won $188,928,958 in prize money for his mounts’ owners and secured the Sydney jockeys’ premiership four times.
Bowman was declared the Longines World’s Best Jockey in 2017 and is a member of the Australian Racing Hall of Fame, the local industry’s highest honour.
Winx won her last 33 races and retired with a world record 25 Group 1 honours.
Bowman has won $188,928,958 in prize money and secured the Sydney jockeys’ premiership four times. He is pictured on Winx after winning the George Ryder Stakes in 2017