Saturday, 14 July 2018

Fergal O'Brien

A later bloomer, trainer Irish-born Fergal O’Brien has quickly established himself as one of the most exciting trainers in British horseracing. 
 
O’Brien has become known for consistently producing young talent including the promising Alverado and Bradley and has struck up a sold relationship with jockey Paddy Brennan, who has ridden most of his horses. After a string of good seasons, the 2016/17 period proved to be his best with 60 wins and prize money of £600,000.

Originally from County Tipperary, Ireland O’Neill’s involvement with horses began age 14-year-old when he visited his brother at the Doug Francis Stable in Cheshire in 1987. At 16 Francis sent him to the Racing School, after which he began working under Captain Tim Forster. In 1992 and after a spell at Ginger McCain’s he began working his third Grand National-winning trainer, Nigel Twiston-Davies. 
 
This was the start of an 18 year-period as Head Lad to Twiston-Davies’. While working under him he was responsible for preparing Grand National winners Earth Summit (1989), Bindaree (2000) and 2010 Cheltenham Cup winner Imperial Commander. 
 
In 2011 he confirmed he was leaving Twiston-Davies’ stable to launch his own training career. He began at Cilldara Stud in Gloucestershire, where his landlord was well-known jump jockey, Timmy Murphy. Success came quickly and during his three and a half years at Cilldara had over 150 winners.

In 2015 he moved back to familiar territory, renting Twiston-Davies’ top yard at Grange Hill Farm in the Costwolds and sharing facilities with his old trainer.

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Pat Eddery

One of the leading lights in the latter part of the 20th century Pat Eddery was a flat racing jockey who still holds the joint most champion titles, three years after his sad death. With a magnificent total of 4,632 wins on the flat, Eddery had racing in his blood from an early age.

He began as an apprentice in Ireland under the guidance of Seamus McGrath and would move to England in 1967, switching to Frenchie Nicholson’s stable. His first victory in England was at Epsom Downs on Alvaro in the Spring of 1969, which was a welcome experience for the jockey, as it came after an entire season without a win.

Alvaro was something of a talisman for Pat Eddery, as 1969 saw him win 5 more races in a row on the horse and whilst still operating as an apprentice, he claimed the Wokingham Handicap, the Northumberland Plate and the Goodwood Stakes in 1971. All this happened in the year the jockey won the Apprentice Champion title.

Impressive

Eddery won the senior Champion Jockey title an impressive 11 times during a long and distinguished career, claiming his last in 1996. Over his 36 years in the saddle, Pat won countless major races that included the 1,000 Guineas, the 2,000 Guineas and the Ascot Gold Cup. There wasn’t much in the flat racing world that he didn’t win in his time.

English flat racing’s switch to multi purpose tracks at the beginning of the 1990s hit Eddery hard and he found the new tracks tough to navigate. His ‘96 championship win was something of an achievement in itself, proving to the man himself that he could still do the business on the new surface.

Later in life, Pat Eddery was to struggle with alcoholism and it would eventually cost him his life at the age of just 63 from an associated heart problem. It was a sad day for racing when the South Dubliner passed and the contribution to horse racing made by this giant of the sport, will never be forgotten.

Monday, 25 June 2018

Bob Champion

Born on the 4th June 1948, Bob Champion is one of the most famous jump jockeys that ever graced the sport and is most fondly remembered by racegoers for riding Aldaniti to victory in the 1981 Grand National. So notable was Champion’s career that his autobiography would be made into a film with John Hurt playing the lead role.

Champion is a proud Yorkshireman, who overcame great adversity earlier in life, beating testicular cancer to return to a successful racing career. This was the backstory to the great man’s career that made his subsequent triumphs so compelling and heartwarming. His win on Aldaniti saw him also named as BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 1981.

Though the 1981 win defined Champion’s career, it wasn’t his only success in jump racing as he also won the Whitbread Trial Chase and the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup in is time as a jockey. He would remain in the sport as a trainer until his retirement in 1999.

Legacy

Bob Champion, now 69, has been given many awards for his success in racing, not least the OBE he received in 1982 and the Helen Rollason Award at the 2011 BBC Sports Personality of the Year ceremony. He was also featured on This Is Your Life in the year of his Grand National win, with Eamonn Andrews walking in to surprise him with his big red book.

Though not the most successful jockey in terms of winners, Bob Champion was and still is a colourful figure in the sport of horse racing. He is someone who has inspired millions across the world with his life story and his triumphs in the face of great personal challenges, serving as a role model for young jockeys everywhere.

Without the likes of Robert Champion OBE, the horseracing world just wouldn’t be the same.




Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Ruby Walsh

Born Rupert Walsh in County Kildare on the 14th May 1979, the affectionately named ‘Ruby’ is a highly decorated jump jockey with a list of achievements as long as it is impressive. He has been Irish National Hunt Champion jockey no less than 12 times and the leading jockey at the Cheltenham Festival almost every year since 2004, only failing to claim the honour twice in that period.

He is the son of amateur champion jockey, Ted Welsh and he showed exceptional talent at an early age, twice winning the Irish amateur title in 1997 and 1998, shortly before he became a professional.

Grand National Champion

The promise he showed an as amateur would continue, as he claimed his first major prize, winning the Grand National on Papillon at the tender age of 20. The Mrs J Maxwell Moran owned horse was trained by his father and the achievement was even more notable given that it was his very first ride in the National. Ruby Walsh has won this blue ribbon event once since, triumphing on Hedgehunter in 2006.

It has not all be glitz and glory for Ruby, as he has endured a number of major injuries over the years, with the most serious being the broken leg he sustained in 1999, racing in the Czech Republic. Added to that was another break of the same leg, shortly before his success with Papillon. This succession of personal injuries has thankfully done nothing to dull the his passion for the sport, as he has seemed to come back stronger on each occasion.

Fame and Fortune

A glittering career that has still considerable time to run has propelled Ruby Walsh firmly into the public eye, with the jockey featuring on a TV documentary about jump jockeys and in a song by Christy Moore aptly named “The Ballad of Ruby Walsh”.

There isn’t much that Walsh still left to achieve, but with a hat trick of Grand National winners to aim for, its unlikely we’ll see him retiring any time soon.