Stars of the Turf- The Jump Jockeys
Jump racing is a magnificent sport; the sight of half a tonne of finely-tuned racehorse majestically leaping a 4 1/2 foot fence and landing with astounding grace really is something to behold.
Yet, the men who sit astride these supreme athletes are no less impressive. Travelling at speeds of 30mph on these great creatures, leaping enormous obstacles, taking crashing falls and broken bones but dusting themselves off to do it all over again, 7 days a week- no wonder Jump jockeys are considered some of the toughest and bravest, and not to mention most skillful, of all sportsmen in any sport
Here we take a look at some of the top men in Jumps racing.
Tony ‘AP’ McCoy
Tony McCoy, affectionately referred to as ‘AP’ throughout the National Hunt world, is an astonishing athlete and the toughest, most driven jockey in racing.
Put simply, jump racing has never seen his like before and may never do in the future. The Northern Irish rider has ridden over 3,000 winners (the only jockey ever to reach this figure), been UK Champion jump jockey for the last 15 years straight and is distinguished by having an OBE after his name, issued by The Queen in 2010 for his services to horse racing.
Since riding his first winner as a fresh-faced 17-year-old, AP had always dreamt of winning the most famous jump racing of them all – The Grand National at Aintree. Much to his dismay, his luck continually ran out in the race, most notably when holding a clear lead on Clan Royal in 2005 until a horse who had ran riderless alongside the field since falling early on amazingly blocked the leading pair off at Bechers Brook!
All’s well that ends well however as in 2010 AP finally landed the fairytale victory he longed for on Don’t Push It in the green, gold and white colours of his boss and long-time friend, JP McManus.
Sometimes fate writes the script with much more pertinence than any writer ever could and there’s no doubt that AP realised this - his smile was as big as one of those huge Aintree fences!
Tony enjoys playing both football and golf. For the past few years he has hosted an annual charity golf day, inviting jockeys and other sporting heroes to contribute to his fundraising. He is also a serious Arsenal FC fan, visiting Highbury whenever possible.
Many poeple call him the greatest Jumps jockey of all time, there is no doubt that he is the most succesful- he has ridden more than 1,000 winners more than his nearest rival. His determination, strength and bravery make him stand out head and shoulders as Jump racing's superstar, and a true living legend.
The jockey with the regal name is certainly part of jump racing royalty, continually showing his style and panache to prove he is one of the very best riders around.
Born Rupert Walsh, but known throughout the racing world as Ruby, he is the son of Ted, a top trainer in Ireland, and older brother of Katie, a very promising jockey in her own right on both sides of the Irish Sea.
Ruby has been winner of the Irish Champion Jockey title 6 times to date, but has concentrated his efforts on the UK scene over the last decade, striking up a formidable partnership with champion trainer Paul Nicholls, for whom he’s the stable jockey and regular partner of superstars Kauto Star and Big Buck's.
Incredibly, Ruby has broken his arm, both his legs (one of them twice), his wrist and his hip whilst race-riding. He also had to have his spleen removed after a heavy fall in 2008. Despite this he has still managed to become the jockey currently riding who has ridden the most winners at the Cheltenham Festival, Jump racing's annual championship event. He is also closing in on the all-time record at this fixture.
While he might not have the strength in the saddle of AP McCoy, it is his uncanny skill and almost preternatural sense of timing which makes him the ultimate horseman. While AP has clearly ridden the most winners, many racing fans believe that if they could pick one jockey to win them a race, it would be Ruby.
Richard Johnson has been the top English-born jockey for many years and certainly deserves his place amongst the elite riders in the sport, frequently displaying both strength and finesse in the saddle.
In fact, if it wasn't for the fact that he came along at the same time as the incomparable AP McCoy, we would possibly be talking about Richard as the greatest ever- he has ridden more than 2,000 winners, more than anyone....bar AP McCoy.
Richard has enjoyed the long and loyal patronage of top trainer Philip Hobbs, with the pair frequently combining for big race success, especially at the Cheltenham Festival where Richard has won all of the big races in the past, including the Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase and the Gold Cup itself in 2000 on Look Like Trouble.
Richard has been runner-up (behind AP McCoy, of course) in the Jump Jockeys Championship every year since the 1997/8 season except for once in 2004/5 when he was third behind Timmy Murphy. Most incredibly was in 2002 when he broke his leg twice in the season, but still captured second spot- an amazing achievement and a mark of the toughness and talent of the man.
Another of the highlights of Richard's career was, at one time, bagging himself Zara Phillips herself as a girlfriend! Good work Richard...!
The brilliant Irishman Barry Geraghty burst onto the scene back in 1998, when he won the Arkle at the Cheltenham Festival, followed by a big win at the Aintree Grand National festival. From here he has never looked back, going on to be one of the top jockeys around.
Career highlights have included winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup aboard Kicking King in 2005, a year when he scored 5 successes at the premier Jumps festival- reproducing a figure he achieved in 2003.
He also won the Grand National in 2003 on Monty's Pass, and has been in the first four of the great race no less than 4 times now.
He was then rewarded for his brilliant career in 2008 when he was made the stable jockey for the immensely powerful Nicky Henderson yard, and has capitalised in fine style, earning more than £1,000,000 in prize money every year since joining the team.
Barry is also a keen sportsman and enjoys playing squash, Gaelic football and golf (“badly!”). He has also recently started learning to water ski.
On a less positive note, Barry admits that he especially enjoys listening to music by Robbie Williams, and that his worst habit is eating too much!
He also once said that if he were not a jockey, he would like to spend his time running a pub in Co. Meath. Now he can do both, as the proud owner of a pub-nightclub and also a farm.
Timmy Murphy is renowned for having his own, distinct style of riding, regularly kidding and cajoling his rides around the racecourse to produce the best results.
Timmy is sublime at stalking other jockeys and producing winning runs on horses that may have otherwise seemed unlikely winners. His elegance most certainly caught the eye of major owner David Johnson who has retained Timmy’s services in the saddle for many years.
The combination won the 2008 National with Comply Or Die and the same horse finished second, trained both times by David Pipe, the young trainer for whom Timmy rides winners with a notable regularity.
Timmy is also famed for having, by his own admission, a very short temper....but is a great guy at heart!
The Best of the Rest
It would be a crime if this article passed without the mention of some of the other top Jump jockeys to look out for, who include last year's Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Paddy Brennan who rides for the powerful Nigel Twiston-Davies yard, the impossibly good-looking Sam Thomas, Jason Maguire, Graham Lee and people's favourite Robert 'Choc' Thornton, with his distinctive long blonde hair but who is currently sidelined through serious injury.
Copyright Adam Brookes, 2010
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