Obituary: Johnny Haine

Click to follow
JOHNNY HAINE was a jockey who brought the poise and finesse of the Flat racing scene into the more rugged, no-thrills arena of National Hunt racing.

It would come as no surprise to those who admired Haine's unflappable, aerodynamic style over jumps that his role model was actually a Flat rider - the Australian Scobie Breasley. He regarded a National Hunt contest as a Flat race, only with obstacles. The aim every time he jumped into a saddle was to win as smoothly as possible, rarely hitting the front until after the final obstacle. Riding to him was about patience and style, not the vigour and brute force more readily associated with the jumping game at the time.

Haine's approach was evident on the day he rode the biggest winner of his career, Salmon Spray in the 1966 Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham. Salmon Spray won by three lengths, conquering the hot Irish-trained favourite, Flyingbolt, in the process. But Haine's only worry in the race was that he was struggling for room as he approached the second last hurdle, such was his liking for delaying his run for home as much as possible. "I had to sit and suffer until an opening came," he once recalled.

Flyingbolt was trained by Bob Turnell, to whom Haine became apprenticed in 1958 soon after leaving school. Turnell was renowned as a successful trainer of jockeys as well as horses and other graduates of his system included his own son Andy and Jeff King. Like Haine, they were both well- known for riding with a short stirrup, more akin to the Flat world than National Hunt.

Even before leaving school, Haine had shown a clear determination to ride as much as possible. He taught himself on a pony and by the age of eight was taking part in the Beaufort Hunt and also won more than 100 first prizes in gymkhanas.

Haine's first winner came on Misconception at Bath in 1958 and after 30 victories on the Flat he turned to the jump game. His first big National Hunt success came on Buona Notte in the 1963 Gloucestershire Hurdle at Cheltenham. He won the Tote Champion Novices' Chase on the same horse, who also provided Haine with one of the lowest moments of his career when the horse fell fatally in the 1965 Great Yorkshire Chase. Another setback came in 1968 when he was banned for three months for what the Jockey Club saw as a ride in which he deliberately made no effort to win in a steeplechase.

Nonetheless other big wins came on Charter Flight in the Topham Trophy, Popham Down in the Scottish Grand National, the Welsh National on Charlie H, and Sir Thopas in the Imperial Cup.

Haine started training in 1975 and for a year combined that role with his more established one as jockey. He failed to match the achievements of the saddle and retired from training in 1980.

John Haine, jockey and racehorse trainer: born Chipping Sodbury, Gloucestershire 30 December 1942; married first and third Sue Williams, second Diana Jones (one son, one daughter); died Crudwell, Wiltshire 7 October 1998.