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Pat Eddery

Pat Eddery

On a Friday night at Goodwood in June 2002, probably the most significant milestone in a remarkable riding career was reached.

When Patrick James John Eddery, born at March 18, 1952 at Newbridge, County Kildare, Ireland, crossed the winning line ahead of his rivals on Lady Pahia, it was his 4,494th victory in Britain. More important, he had moved into second place in the all-time list of winning jockeys in this country.

The likeable Irishman had just bettered the legendary Lester Piggott's tally and only Sir Gordon Richards was ahead of him.

In his last races, Eddery rode with all the self-motivation that has guided him to such dizzy heights. He is so dedicated. Whether it's a seller or a Group One race, he would give the horse the same ride.

Arguably, by choice, that vital statistic of beating Sir Gordon's record has eluded him, but it doesn't in any way lessen his achievements. Eddery spent one more year in the saddle than Richards and had far more rides, although it could be argued that racing is a lot more competitive now than it was during the Richards era (1921 to 1954).

However, Richards rode 4,870 winners and would have topped 5,000 but for World War II and was champion jockey 26 times compared to Eddery's 11 titles.

But Eddery holds the British record for the most centuries in a career. He has ridden at least 100 winners in 28 different seasons, three more than Lester Piggott.

Eddery has been associated with many outstanding thoroughbreds, notably El Gran Senor, Pebbles and, the greatest of all, Dancing Brave. He rode four winners of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and two in the Breeders' Cup. He steered Dancing Brave to victory in the 1986 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes during his final year of a five-year stint with Vincent O'Brien at Ballydoyle.

He picked up the plum ride when Greville Starkey, who had suffered a nightmare defeat on Dancing Brave in the Epsom Derby, was sidelined with a back problem.

Pat Eddery winning the Breeders' Cup Sprint (Gr.1) aboard Sheikh Albadou in 1991 at Churchill Downs. Photo BBCSport

While Eddery was in negotiations to sign a retainer to ride for the colt's owner Khalid Abdullah the following year, at the owner's request he also partnered Dancing Brave in the Arc and triumphed.

Eddery started as an apprentice at the age of 14 with Seamus McGrath at Sandyford, County Dublin, before joining Frenchie Nicholson's renowned riding academy at Cheltenham.

He learned the hard way, but it was the right upbringing for any budding young jockey and how that respect and discipline has shone through down the years.

Younger members of the riding profession would do themselves a huge favour by following the example of Eddery's conduct, both on and off the racecourse. Letting other people down was never one of Eddery's failures. In fact, I don't believe he had any.

He had his first ride at 15, his first winner at 17 (Alvaro, trained by Michael Pope, at Epsom in 1969) and unless you sit down and digest it all in print it's hard to grasp the scale of his achievements.

We all know how time seems to pass by more quickly as you get older and that's how Eddery has felt about life in the twilight years of his outstanding career. "I'd love to do it all again," he says. "I've been fortunate to ride for so many good people and sat on some great horses."


"Racing world paid tribute to Eddery "

The complete professional. That is the unanimous view of all those who have worked with and ridden against Pat Eddery.

The 11-times champion Flat jockey, has been been associated with some of the greatest names of the Turf over the years, both human and equine.

The Guy Harwood-trained Dancing Brave, brilliant winner of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe under Eddery in 1986, figures high on that list.

"He was a fine jockey," Harwood said. “He’s amazing really, he’s kept up the very highest standards. He had a lot of ability and a great racing brain. He was prepared to go out on a limb – on Dancing Brave in the Arc you’d have to say he went out on a limb."

"I was holding my breath at the two-and-a-half marker and thinking ‘where the heck are you’? Then whoosh! He had great confidence in his horses. Once he’d got to know them and he was a very good judge of how to ride a horse. It is very important to a trainer that somebody can come back and say this horse wants burying or this horse wants to make the running."

“He had a photographic memory too – he could always remember every horse he had ever ridden. He's kept going over the years and on the big day there’s nobody you’d rather have on your horse than Pat.”

Eddery got the ride on Dancing Brave prior to taking a retainer with Prince Khalid Abdullah, for whom he partnered a stream of big winners.

"Pat rode 583 winners for me, including 33 Group Ones, most memorably Dancing Brave, Jolypha, Quest For Fame, Rainbow Quest and Zafonic," said His Highness. "We enjoyed a close partnership which was both exciting and fruitful. His skill, drive and professionalism in the saddle was a pleasure to behold and I wish him a very happy retirement."

Eddery’s big-race successes started with Peter Walwyn back in the 1970s. One of the top-class horses he rode in a fruitful partnership with the Lambourn trainer was Grundy, winner of the Dewhurst Stakes, Derby and King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes.

"He rode a total of 689 winners for us in England, Ireland, France, Germany and the United States," Walwyn said.

“His first ride for me was at Newmarket in 1970 – Frenchie Nicholson had said he’d definitely do the weight and he put up 3lb over! I gave Frenchie a bollocking and said ‘look, I don’t want this boy, who you tell me is very good, putting up overweight’."

"But off we went and we had some wonderful seasons together with an awful lot of winners. We are still great friends, that’s the wonderful thing. A lot of my success was down to Pat. He was a marvellous jockey, he had wonderful hands. If he went through a bad spell, he would get up and bounce back again, just like that. He was just a natural."

Grundy’s win in the King George is part of racing folklore, with Eddery’s mount prevailing only after a titanic battle with the Joe Mercer-ridden Bustino, who had two pacemakers running for him.

"I was in a daze really by the end of it," remembers Walwyn. "But I still think to win one’s first Derby was an even bigger thrill. It’s still the best Flat race in the world. A lot of the races Pat won for us were miracles and a lot of them probably weren’t very good horses."

Eddery, known as 'God' in the weighing room, gets a hug from fellow jockey Frankie Dettori. Photo from BBCSport

"It’s sad he’s retiring but he’s in terrific health – actually he’s riding better than ever – look at his ride on Reel Buddy (in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood in July). We’re having a party for him at the Savoy on November 17 to give him a great farewell. There’s still tickets available so anybody who hasn’t been asked, we’d love to see them – the more the merrier!"

Mercer said: “I suppose the worst memory I have was when he beat me on Grundy, but he is just an out-and-out true professional jockey. He is a fine example for a lot of people to follow."

"I have a lot of memories of Pat as I have known him since he was a ‘wee lad’. I was the one who originally named him ‘Polyfilla’. That was his nickname years ago. When he was an apprentice, Peter Walwyn asked me what I thought of Pat Eddery, so I told him, I think he’s brilliant. I called him Polyfilla because he fills every hole in the racecourse. Every gap that appeared, Pat was there."

"I loved riding with Pat. We rode against each other for about 15 years and I have lots of very happy memories about those times. I rode abroad with him, and of course he is married to my niece, so in a funny sort of way he is family. He is a wonderful person and has been a great ambassador for British racing worldwide. He is very dedicated and a truly professional jockey."

John Dunlop, who teamed up with the Irishman to win the St Leger with Moon Madness in 1986 and Silver Patriarch in 1997, said:

"He’s had a wonderful innings. He rode his first winner for me 30 years ago this year – September 1973 at Bath. The sad thing was that he missed out on his hundred last year (when Eddery ended the season on 99). He’s been the same man with the same wonderful manners and wonderful enthusiasm over all those years. He’s never changed one iota and was the most charming man to work for you and to work with."

"He rode two Leger winners for us and just missed out on a Derby (Silver Patriarch). He’ll be sadly, sadly missed by us all. It was lovely that he happened to be on a horse of mine (when he reached 4,000 British winners) in the St Leger, which was great. We shall miss him badly, but we wish him well in the future."

Roger Charlton, for whom Eddery won the Derby on Quest For Fame, said:

"I’ve always found Pat to be very professional. In all the time I have been at Beckhampton and he has ridden work here, he was always early. He never complained, and was obviously an outstanding jockey. I have a lot of affection for him and am very grateful for the great races he rode, particularly on Quest For Fame and Sanglamore (the French Derby winner). He was a real pro and a very nice person to go with it."

Several of Eddery’s biggest winners were abroad, and he twice teamed up with Newmarket trainer Clive Brittain to garner major international prizes.

Brittain said: Without Pat Eddery in the saddle I would not have won a Breeders’ Cup with Pebbles. He gave her a fantastic ride, like he did almost everything he rode. Only a real champion would have won on her that day and he proved to be just that. She had a 14 draw, which the Americans said she couldn’t win from, but Pat made the 14 draw to his advantage."

"The other great race he rode for me was the Japan Cup on Jupiter Island. Turning for home you couldn’t have given him any chance of winning, but Pat got down to his job and got him in front right on the line. So really, my two biggest exploits abroad are all down to Pat."

"So really, my two biggest exploits abroad are all down to Pat. And, I still feel to this day that had he been able to ride Bold Arrangement (who finished second) in the Kentucky Derby, we could well have won. He rode him in the Blue Grass, but was claimed to ride in England on Kentucky Derby day, and I think as good as Chris McCarron was, Pat was just the type of jockey that suited the horse. In my career he certainly stood out. He had the courage of a lion and nerves of steel. I have a lot to thank Pat for."

Another trainer who had plenty of big-race success in partnership with Eddery was Luca Cumani.

The Italian said: “Pat has been as great a jockey to grace the British Turf in the past 50 years as there has been. He rates alongside Lester Piggott and Willie Carson as the three best jockeys in the last 50 years and it is sad that it is coming to the end of an era. He has been a true professional throughout and I owe quite a few big wins to him. He won the Arlington Million for me on Tolomeo, he won the Italian Derby on Old Country – he has won lots and lots of big races for me in fact, and I will forever be grateful to him."

"His skill has been remarkable for so many years, and as I say he is a true professional – it is rather sad to see that he will no longer be riding, but we wish him all the very best for his future."

Henry Cecil said: "Pat is a marvellous jockey, a real gentleman and a tremendous ambassador for racing – he will not easily be replaced. We had some very good moments, and in particular he rode a fantastic race on Commander In Chief when he beat Hernando in the Irish Derby."

Willie Carson said: "Pat is the true professional, through and through. It is a shame he is not going to beat Sir Gordon Richards’ record for winners, but I suppose sitting in the weighing-room day in day out watching lesser lights, as it were, getting the jobs he can do is difficult to stand."

"But he has done everything, he has nothing to prove and he has had a marvellous career. He was never late for a race meeting, and he was always completely focused. He is riding as well as ever and no-one can criticise him. He had a different (riding) style to me, but it is all about getting the job done and Pat always did."

Patrick James John Eddery is the ultimate professional. The perfect ambassador for the sport.

"His whole attitude is tremendous. For a man who has a reputation for being laid-back, he is very, very professional about the whole thing", Jim McGrath, 23 July 2000

"Pat rode a beautiful race - remember he was riding Arc winners when Peslier and the rest were in short trousers", John Dunlop, 16 May 2001

"He's the ultimate professional in the weighing room", Willie Carson, 24 June 2002


His Records and Achievements

* Apprenticeship: Seamus McGrath 1966-67. Frenchie Nicholson 1967-72. Champion apprentice 1971.
* Retainers: 1973-80 Peter Walwyn; 1981-6 Vincent O'Brien; 1987-94 Khalid Abdullah; 1995- Freelance.

* First ride: True Time (Seamus McGrath) last at the Curragh, August 19, 1967
* First ride in Britain: Dido's Dowry, 6th at Liverpool, March 30, 1968.
* First winner: Alvaro at Epsom, April 24, 1969.
* First big winner: Sky Rocket (1969 Wokingham at Royal Ascot).
* First Derby ride: Pentland Firth (third in 1972).

* Champion jockey: 11 times. 1974-77, 1986, 1988-91, 1993, 1996 (also champion in Ireland in 1982).
* 100 winners in a season: Every year from 1973 to 2001 except 1982. Rode 99 winners in 2002
* 200 winners in a season: 1990
* Best season: 209 wins in 1990.

* 1,000th winner in Britain: Saros, City and Suburban Handicap, Epsom, April 26, 1978.
* 2,000th win in Britian: Eastern Mystic, Yorkshire Cup, York, May 15, 1986.
* 3,000th winner in Britain: Morocco, Bath, July 22, 1991.
* 4,000th winner in Britain: Silver Patriarch, St Leger, Doncaster, September 13, 1997.

* British winners: 4,633 (including 78 so far in 2003).
* Seven winners in one day: Newmarket (three) and Newcastle (four) June 26, 1992.
* Six winners in one day: June 30 1986; July 16 1990.

* British Classic winners - 1000 Guineas: Bosra Sham 1996.
* 2000 Guineas: Lomond 1983, El Gran Senor 1984, Zafonic 1993.
* Epsom Derby: Grundy 1975, Golden Fleece 1982, Quest For Fame 1990.
* Epsom Oaks: Polygamy 1974, Scintillate 1979, Lady Carla 1996.
* St Leger: Moon Madness 1986, Toulon 1991, Moonax 1994, Silver Patriarch 1997.
* King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes winners: Grundy 1975, Dancing Brave 1986.

* Irish Classic winners - 2000 Guineas: Grundy 1975, Kings Lake 1981, Tirol 1990.
* Irish Derby: Grundy 1975, El Gran Senor 1984, Law Society 1985, Commander in Chief 1993.
* Irish Oaks: Colorspin 1986, Wemyss Bight 1993, Bolas 1994.
* Irish St Leger: Leading Counsel 1985, Moonax 1994, Silver Patriarch 1997.

* French Classic winners - Poule d'Essai des Pouliches: Houseproud 1990.
* Prix du Jockey-Club: Caerleon 1983, Hours After 1988, Sanglamore 1990.
* Prix de Diane Hermes: Jolypha 1992.
* Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winners: Detroit 1980, Rainbow Quest 1985, Dancing Brave 1986, Trempolino 1987.

* Breeders' Cup: Pebbles 1985 (BC Turf), Sheikh Albadou 1991 (BC Sprint)
* Japan Cup winner: Jupiter Island 1986
* Arlington Million: Tolomeo 1983

He has ridden winners on Europe's greatest racehorses:

* Grundy
* Golden Fleece
* Caerleon
* Dancing Brave
* Rainbow Quest
* Danehill
* Sadler's Wells
* Pebbles
* El Gran Senor
* Warning
* Zafonic
* Ramruma
* Bosra Sham

Thanks to The Irish Examiner and BBCSport