Sale Turf Club used its Sunday meeting on July 23 to honour the memory of late jockey Peter Mertens.

The legendary Mertens, whose many accolades throughout his illustrious career dubbed him the ‘King of Gippsland’, died on June 24 after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

Mertens’ death propelled the racing world into mourning, with the King of Gippsland remembered as an outstanding local jockey and a respected figure in the racing community whose legacy will continue to inspire future generations of riders.

Sale Turf Club hosted a special meeting in honour of the King of Gippsland, dedicating Race 4 with the race name ‘Vale Peter Mertens’. Photos: Zoe Askew

In a career spanning more than 30 years, Mertens rode more than 2100 winners, including seven Group 1s in both Victoria and South Australia, before his retirement in 2013.

Mertens’ first Group 1 win came in 1999 aboard Rustic Dream in the Futurity Stakes at Caulfield.

Of his 2100 career wins, 737 were on Gippsland Tracks – 279 at Sale, 159 at Moe, 132 at Bairnsdale, 113 at Traralgon and 54 at Stony Creek.

Mertens was a three-time Sale Cup winner, riding winners in 1990, 1995 and 1999. He also won the Traralgon Cup in 2003 and the Bairnsdale Cup in 2013.

In 2010, Mertens was inducted into the Sale Turf Club Hall of Fame. A plaque in the male jockey room at Sale commemorates the King of Gippsland’s outstanding career.

Sale Turf Club hosted a special meeting in his honour, dedicating Race 4 with the race name ‘Vale Peter Mertens, to the King of Gippsland’.

Mertens’ wife Gulcin and their nine children were among those in attendance, with his son and talented jockey Beau Mertens riding Delicate Babe in the race named in his father’s honour.

Peter Mertens’ family and friends attended Sale Turf Club’s meeting on July 23, hosted in honour of the great Gippsland jockey. Photos: Zoe Askew

Delicate Babe was the favourite ahead of the race, but the Matt Laurie-trained bay filly, ridden by 2008 Melbourne Cup winner Blake Shinn, claimed the win.

Sale Turf Club chief executive Brad Evans said Mertens’ passing saddened the club, and that the Gippsland jockey significantly impacted the region throughout his career.

“Given his legacy and contribution to Gippsland Racing and his love of Sale, it was fitting to have 30-plus family and friends joining committee as guests of the club for this special day,” Evans said.

“It was a very successful celebration of a great career.”

Beau Mertens smiles up at his family on the Sale Turf Club balcony after returning to the mounting yard following the race named in honour of his late father, legendary local jockey Peter Mertens. Photos: Zoe Askew

Racing farewelled the King of Gippsland at Caulfield Racecourse on Thursday, July 6, with more than 300 gathering to remember the husband, father, friend and extraordinary jockey.

Mertens hoped one of his children would follow him into the saddle, his son Beau stepping up to fulfil his wishes.

On Wednesday, June 28, in his first ride since his father’s death, Beau won the Benchmark 70 (1300m) for fillies and mares at Ladbrokes Park Sandown Lakeside aboard Anahita.

Beau told that he planned to win the race, and believes he had the assistance of his late father riding with him.

“I had a big smile on my face, I was going to do it for him, and he was definitely riding over me on that one, that’s for sure,” Beau said.

Ten days later, and just three days after farewelling his late father, Beau led all the way to win the 1100m 2YO Handicap at Caulfield aboard Spicy Margs.

Beau Mertens, son of Peter, aboard Delicate Babe at Sale Turf Club on Sunday, July 23. Photos: Zoe Askew

When Peter Mertens fell ill, the determination that stood him in such good stead on the track enabled him to fight, telling in November last year that Beau’s promising career in the saddle was a tremendous form of motivation.

“I’ve never done things in halves; you’ve got to remain positive and take whatever you can,” Mertens said.

“There’s a lady who has a similar 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 for a bit longer to keep reminding Beau that I’m still the King of the Country Cups.

“My friends, family, and, in particular, Beau are my inspiration. That’s what drives me.

“He still has a lot to go, but geez, he makes me proud.”

With that, you can’t help but believe Beau when he said his dad was riding over him after winning the Benchmark 70 (1300m) for fillies and mares at Ladbrokes Park Sandown Lakeside.

You can’t help but believe Mertens was riding with Beau when he won the 1100m 2YO Handicap at Caulfield aboard Spicy Margs.

You can’t help but believe Mertens will forever be riding with Beau.