ALAN MERRIGAN was a talented National Hunt jockey, but one whose career was plagued by bad luck.
Injuries are part of a jump jockey's life, and those who can't accept that soon quit the game. But Merrigan, who at 6ft 1in was exceptionally tall for a jockey, suffered more than most. He never really had a sustained chance to show off his abilities, so frequent were the injuries he picked up. This can be illustrated by looking at his career in 1990. He suffered a badly broken pelvis in a fall at Carlisle in April of that year on the Arthur Stephenson-trained Bonnie Artist. A metal framework had to be fitted around his pelvis. More cruelly, it was his first ride after two months' convalescence from a depressed skull fracture.
Alan Merrigan was none the less an able pilot and as second jockey to Arthur Stephenson rode some of Stephenson's best horses, including Blazing Walker and Southern Minstrel, winning both the West of Scotland Pattern Chase and Timeform Chase on the latter in 1989. Merrigan had 28 winners in his best season, 1988- 89, and a career total of 95.
Born in Ireland in 1964, Merrigan was an accomplished horseman thanks to the help of his father, a dealer in show-jumping horses. He arrived in England aged 19 and was turned down by several trainers before the revered Stephenson offered him a job. His first big win for Stephenson came on Newlife Connection at the Liverpool Grand National meeting in 1987. He also won two big races at Wetherby in 1989, the Charlie Hall Chase and Rowland Meyrick Chase, both on the Grand National stalwart Durham Edition.
It was while working for Stephenson that Merrigan met his wife Clare, who worked as secretary at the Crawleas stable. Alan Merrigan died in the early hours of yesterday morning when the car he was travelling in left the quayside at Seahouses, in Northumberland, and plunged into the water. His friend and colleague Ridley Lamb died in the same accident.