Emotions were running high at Hastings racecourse on Monday when Tommyra lined up in the K S Browne Hurdle just a day after the death of his trainer and part-owner Toby Autridge.

At age 60, Autridge passed away at his Matamata home on Sunday morning. His death, after an acute deterioration in his health only days beforehand, came on the 33rd anniversary of one of the defining achievements of his jockey career, victory in the 1989 Great Northern Steeplechase on the Mike Moroney-trained Tumblin Down.

Back then the Great Northern meeting was staged over the Saturday and Monday of Queen’s Birthday weekend and two days before his win on Tumblin Down, Autridge had won the Great Northern Hurdle on the Graeme Rogerson/Keith Hawtin-trained Noble Heritage.

On the same horse he was to add the 1991 Wellington Steeplechase, the last win in a jumps jockey career that across a decade comprised 37 wins over country and another 29 over hurdles.

Autridge had proved his horsemanship long before that, having ridden 31 winners as a 15-year-old in his debut season, 1977-78, and another 49 the following season when he finished second on the apprentice table to Jim Cassidy.

As a member of a family embedded in racing – and in common with his two-year older brother Stephen, of small stature – it was natural that he would become a jockey. By the age of 10, both Autridge boys had become trackwork riders for their father Bob, who mixed training with his main job as a farrier, and Toby followed his brother in signing as an apprentice.

His early rush of success was followed in November 1978 with an incredible second place in the Melbourne Cup on the Alan Pringle-trained Dandaleith, going down in a photo-finish to local stayer Arwon, ridden by one of Victoria’s leading jockeys of that era, Harry White.

Later that season the 16-year-old won the Wellington Cup on the Howie Mathews-trained Big Gamble and by the time he completed his apprenticeship he had attracted the interest of leading Singapore trainer Ivan Allan.

With wins that included a Singapore Derby, that was the first overseas experience that saw him also ride winners in Macau, where he was second and third on the premiership, as well as Mauritius and Australia.

After beginning his career weighing less than 40 kilograms, Autridge’s frame grew to the point that in the early 1980s he was forced to take up jumps riding with its higher scale.

Ten years after his Melbourne Cup second, he returned to Australia and went one better aboard Te Akau Lad in one of the last jumps races contested in Sydney, the November 1989 Tui Transtasman Hurdle at Rosehill, in which he beat another New Zealand galloper, Look At Me, ridden by Graeme Lord.

While still riding over jumps Autridge had also taken out his trainer’s licence, going into partnership with his father and winning the 1988 New Zealand 1000 Guineas, Desert Gold Stakes and Eight Carat Classic with Olga’s Pal, who shared that season’s Filly of the Year honours with Kate’s Myth.

Eventually his weight stabilised to the point that he made a return to flat riding, when major wins included the 1992 Ellerslie Sires’ Produce Stakes on Kaaptive Edition and the 1998 Avondale Gold Cup on Yes Indeed.

However the irony of the decision to restrict his riding to the supposedly safer flat was that in 1999 Autridge suffered career-ending – and near fatal – injuries in a race fall at Ruakaka. A broken neck, lower back and multiple rib fractures that left him with both lungs punctured meant a long recovery.

It was a hard road getting his health and life itself into some order after what he described as having been “to hell and back”, but in that he had the support of his second wife Debbie as well as his children Josh and Chloe, and over the past decade he had built a respectable record with his small racing team.

Star of the show has been the talented jumper Tommyra, whose 11 wins include the K S Browne, Hawke’s Bay and Waikato Hurdles. Having ridden more than 700 winners as a jockey, the last of Autridge’s 69 wins as a trainer came just two weeks ago when Shocking Bill scored at Avondale.

On Monday at Hastings Tommyra was attempting a second K S Browne Hurdle win and in his first jumps start this campaign was a gallant third. Stablemate Mrs Twinkletoe also acquitted herself well at Hastings in her jumps campaign opener when finishing second in the hands of part-owner Emily Farr.

Toby’s brother Stephen went close to pulling off a doubly emotional win at Hastings with second placegetter Silverdale Chief, owned by long-time client Stan Painton who passed away last week and whose funeral was taking in place in Auckland on Tuesday.

There will also be runners in Toby’s name at Wednesday’s home town meeting, with first starters Sweet By And By and Joy Girl both lining up.

Back at the Matamata racecourse at 1pm on Friday, a large gathering is anticipated when the racing community from near and far joins in farewelling one of its favourite sons.