THE HISTORY OF ‘JIGGERS”
Over the years, many dodgy jockeys and trainers have owed a lot to Alessandro Volta—not that they’d have any idea who the heck he was. It was Volta who, in 1800, invented the battery: a device used in racing circles for decades to encourage a horse to try that little bit harder, or simply just try. The battery device is also known as a jigger, a jack or a harp. To put it simply, it’s a dishonest device used by dishonest people on dishonest horses.
Not only have ‘jiggers’ have been applied to horses in track work but in races as well. Sometimes it was the saddle that was wired, sometimes the whip and sometimes even the jockey himself. Indeed jiggers were so prevalent in racing in the ‘old days’ that they were sold out of car boots on race days.
Over the years there have been a number of expert battery-makers in Australia. In the 1950s a jumping jockey who was also an electrician supplied all the batteries on request in South Australia, and was known as the ‘Electric Arm’.
And operating out of the front bar of the Racecourse Hotel in Caulfield, only a stone’s throw from the gates of the course, was a character known as ‘Battery Jack’. Jack supplied jockeys and trainers from near and far with equipment that included spurs, saddles and hand-held batteries capable of giving horses a significant surge of electricity. These were to aid connections looking for an improved performance so they could set up a betting coup. It was said that when Battery Jack died, there was a distinct lack of volunteers to carry the coffin for fear of being electrocuted!
In New South Wales during the 1930s ‘Battery King’ was a master electrical craftsman who produced masterpieces of his own. His jiggers were reliable, intensely potent and, above all, remarkably compact. The Truth newspaper gave insight into how he operated:
Sitting in his workshop surrounded by live and dead wires at a bench littered with cones, insulated leads, porcelain protectors, and all the materials and tools of the electrician, the expert toils away steadily at his pursuit of making munitions for malefactors.
One day a jockey approached him to have a battery attached to his riding saddle. The King examined it and fitted a miniature jigger snugly under the pommel.
From the buzzer, wires were laid down each flap of the saddle, terminating in points protruding from inside. All the jockey had to do, was press his knees firmly on the flaps of the saddle.
The Battery King explained that jockeys preferred the hand-held type of apparatus because they can easily be thrown away should the need arise, unlike the equipment attached to a saddle.