Queenslander, Leonard Ross Dittman, known as Mick Dittman didn’t take long to become one of Australia’s champion jockeys with an outstanding career record. Known as ‘The Enforcer’ because of his use of the whip, Dittman dominated Australian race tracks in partnership with trainer, late T. J. Smith, a formidable combination that rewrote many chapters in horse racing history.
Dittman began his racing career on the Gold Coast as an apprentice with Bill Kraft in the mid-1960s. As an apprentice, Dittman’s first triumph was on Red Shah in the 1968 Gold Coast Newmarket. The taste of victory was too tempting for ‘The Enforcer’ who soon steered Makata in the very next year to the winning post in the Ipswich Cup. His final years as an apprentice with Patt Duff in Brisbane was the beginning of a glorious adventure on the tracks with his first Group 1 win on Knee High in the 1972 Doomben Cup.
Dittman made sure he dominated Brisbane racing through the 1970s, setting records every season including the record for most wins in one season at 97 ½. The big southern carnivals were his lucky charm with a record six winners as well as a second place at in a special program at Eagle Farm in November 1976.
Dittman’s never say die attitude continued in the 1980s in Sydney in a partnership with Tommy Smith, in whose stable he became the top rider. The Smith-Dittman duo brought home three Sydney premierships which formed the basis of one of the most formidable combinations in Australian horse racing history. Winning 88 Group 1 races is no small feat for Dittman whose penchant for winning resulted in a total of 1700 victories which included the Melbourne Cup in 1982 where he collared the ‘King’, Kingston Town, in the shadows of the post to take Gurner’s Lane home by a 1/2 head.
Among the other memorable wins in the saddle are three Golden Slippers, two Cox Plates, and a Caulfield Cup. Angus Armanasco trainer of Full On Aces was the colt that brought home Dittman his very first Golden Slipper in 1981, followed by yet another victory in 1986 with the T. J Smith trained Bounding Away. Chestnut filly Bint Marscay trained by L. Freedman gave him his third Golden Slipper in 1993. Strawberry Road and Red Anchor were the two horses that won him Cox Plates while he rode Sydeston home in the Caulfield Cup.
Had Dittman forayed onto the race tracks overseas, it doesn’t take much of an imagination to figure out what his record would have turned out to be, especially along with T. J. Smith. His love for his native Queensland made him entertain only interstate mounts during the big carnivals.
A mangnificent horse racing career with more than 1700 wins can not go unnoticed. Mick Dittman, undoubtedly, was inducted into Australia’s Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 2002. Dittman hung up his racing boots to become a bloodstock agent in Singapore. This is not before setting up his son, Luke Dittman, to continue his rich legacy. Gamblers at Eagle Farm Racecourse have the 1000 metres Mick Dittman Plate to wager on as a tribute to Mick Dittman, ‘The Enforcer’.