HERE is at tribute to the legendary former multiple UK Champion Jockey Pat Eddery, who died earlier this week, written by MARCUS TOWNEND for www.dailymail.co.uk
There was never any doubt where Pat Eddery was happiest and most fulfilled and he knew it too.
In his autobiography To Be A Champion, the 63-year-old whose death was announced on Tuesday, wrote: ‘On horseback I was instilled with a conviction and self belief I never felt at other times.’
That short sentence sums up the man who let his riding do the talking.
Eddery was never one to seek out publicity. He often seemed ill at ease in the limelight. But put him on top of half a ton of thoroughbred racehorse and he became a giant and a winning machine.
For those who were born too late to watch his jockey career, a glance through the numbers he achieved should be enough in itself to realise that Eddery must and will be remembered as one of the greatest Flat jockeys to ever ride in Britain.
He was champion 11 times, matching the feat of much better known and legendary Lester Piggott, and a career total of more than 4,600 winners is second only to another jockey icon, Sir Gordon Richards.
He won the King George twice, the Arc a record-equalling four times and the Derby three times.
But most memorable of all was the string of top-class horses he was chosen to partner. They included Bosra Sham, Dancing Brave, Grundy, Sadler’s Wells, El Gran Senor, Pebbles and Warning.
The list reflects the regard in which Eddery was held. He became the go-to man for leading trainers and owners who wanted to secure an unflappable ally in pressurised moments of the biggest races when a split-second decision could cost millions.
Eddery, with his unique style in a finish, seldom got it wrong.
Pat Eddery in full cry. (Photos: Press Association).
He formed a fruitful alliance with Irish trainer Vincent O’Brien and his British owner Robert Sangster which, during the early 1980s, enjoyed successes including Solford (1981) and Sadler’s Wells (1982) in the Eclipse Stakes and Golden Fleece in the 1982 Derby.
But the stronger memories lies in his longer-term alliance for Saudi Arabian owner Prince Khaled Abdullah, the man who later bred and owned the great Frankel.
In Abdullah’s green, pink and white silks, Eddery won races like the Sussex Queen Anne Stakes on Guy Harwood-trained Warning, the French Derby on Roger Charlton-trained Sanglamore and the St Leger on Andre Fabre’s Toulon.
There was also an Arc on Jeremy Tree-trained Rainbow Quest but the horse Eddery was best remembered for winning Europe’s top middle-distance all-age race on was Harwood’s brilliant Dancing Brave.
The brilliant colt was already a 2,000 Guineas and Eclipse Stakes winner and widely accepted as very unlucky runner-up in the Derby when Eddery was called up to replace the injured regular rider Greville Starkey in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot.
Eddery won there, avenging Dancing Brave’s Derby defeat by Shahrastani, and landed the Select Stakes at Goodwood before memorably landing one of the best Arcs ever run under one of Eddery’s best rides.
With 200m still to run, Eddery and Dancing Brave were not even in the first 10 of a Longchamp field which included German champion Acatenango and French champion Bering. But Eddery, waiting to unleash his mount’s electrifying turn of foot, pounced so wide Dancing Brave’s run was only just picked up late on TV screens. The pair won by a length and a half.
The fifth of 12 children, Eddery was born on March 18, 1952. His father Jimmy was a champion jockey in Ireland and stable jockey for top trainer Seamus McGrath.
By the age of eight, young Pat was also riding out at the stable in Co Kildare. His life path was probably chosen even before he was born.
He was sent to the renowned jockey academy of Frenchie Nicholson, a man who also subsequently tutored Walter Swinburn, when he came to Britain and rode his first winner here on Alvaro at Epsom in April 1969.
By 1971 he was champion apprentice with 71 winners and already capturing plenty of attention, so much so that Grundy’s champion trainer Peter Walwyn lured him to be his stable jockey, a post he held from 1972 until 1980. It was a job which led to Eddery being champion for the first time in 1974.
Eddery, awarded an OBE in 2005, retired from riding that year to set up training in his stable north of Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire. There was some success, most notably with Heart of Fire which won a Group One race in Italy in 2009.
But inevitably, Eddery’s training career was never going to match his riding exploits and his life hit troubled times. He was divorced from wife Carolyn, mother of his three children and then involved in an acrimonious industrial tribunal with his former jockey brother Paul.
Paul claimed he had worked for Pat when he was struggling to cope with the breakdown of his marriage but a subsequent fallout, when Paul was sacked in November 2009, resulted in a claim for unfair dismissal which was thrown out.
In recent times, Eddery, who worked with partner Emma Owen, had been an infrequent visitor to the racecourse. He had had one winner in 2015 from only 53 runners.
It was a sad decline for one of racing’s brightest stars and one who gained great pleasure from his champion jockey titles.
‘The lasting pleasure is to win the title. To be No 1 in your field is surely what everyone sets out in life to achieve and any jockey who tells you the championship means little to him is a liar or a fool. It is the ultimate and you cannot buy the satisfaction it brings,’ he once said.
Eddery was No 1 for 11 seasons. That is how is should best be remembered.