Racing: Eddery can sign off with pride on a final winner

The 36-year career of the 11 times champion jockey can come to a close with dignity at Doncaster as old riding rivals exit stable positions
Click to follow

There will be a gentle rumble in the landscape of horseracing at games' end this afternoon. When Gamut passes the line in the Serlby Stakes at Doncaster he will finally carry with him one of the greatest names ever to grace this sport.

It will be a horse journey as dramatic as El Cid's, but Pat Eddery is very much still clear and alive, though he too has done much down the years to rouse those around him.

When Eddery, originally known as Polyfilla because of the gaps he filled in racecourse fields, and latterly Grandpa, because of the gaps in his teeth and hair, completes his 36-year career on Town Moor, he will go on his own terms.

Pat's first ride in Britain was on Dido's Dowry, sixth at Liverpool, a telling venue in itself, in March 1968. It took him more than another 12 months to ride his first winner, Alvaro at Epsom, but since then the conveyor belt of winners has been relentless. He goes into play today with 11 championships and 4,632 winners to his name. That number of rides is usually the barometer to a successful career.

At 51, Eddery has only Sir Gordon Richards ahead of him in the all-time British rankings. There is nobody in front in terms of the admiration of his colleagues. Pat Eddery has never abused his position as the premier jockey. Success has not tainted him, rather polished his modest tendency.

There have been the occasional forays into the tabloids, but he goes a man still loved by his colleagues and family, a man in whom the competitive and sparkling light still glitters.

There have been the great horses associated with Eddery: the marquee names of Dancing Brave, El Gran Senor and Pebbles. They made him and vice versa. Riding the big occasion was easy to Eddery because he was rescued by his own personality.

The Irishman still considers himself no greater than the whey-faced apprentices who would bow at his feet in the weighing room. The Himalayas of winners to his credit make no difference. Thus, the man himself was not cowed by other big names and big occasions. His victory on Dancing Brave in the 1986 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe remains a monument to sanguine race riding.

"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," Guy Harwood, the colt's trainer, said yesterday. "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. He's kept going over the years and on the big day there's nobody you'd rather have on your horse than Pat."

The skill, though, was that he took the small days just as seriously. It is a landmark occasion for Eddery this afternoon, but a newcomer would not be able to tell. He will not appear nervous, he will not panic and there will be no tears. It has been this way since he was a boy.

There will be the horses he elevates to a status much beyond their actual racing ability. First among unequals this afternoon is Rio Branco, a newcomer he partners for Barry Hills in the first division of the maiden. The same trainer supplies him with Ivy League Star in the second division.

Then there is the quietly fancied Colourful Life for Mary Reveley, followed by the novelty of a Martin Pipe ride in a nursery. Chubbes is the name of the beast.

And finally, and we definitely mean finally here, there is GAMUT (nap 2.35) himself. He is the form horse for the form rider of the past four decades, and with racing's ability, serendipitously or otherwise, to manufacture the correct result, Sir Michael Stoute's horse is the one to be on.

Eddery has no ride in the final serious punting exchange of the year, the November Handicap, in which there is the appearance of the 2001 victor, Royal Cavalier. His form is closely tied in with that of Wunderwood and Eastern Breeze, and splitting the atom might be easier. An alternative prospect is Capitano Corelli (next best 3.15), who ran a stinker when well fancied in this 12 months ago, but who retains the loyalty of Kieren Fallon.

The changing of the guard is exemplified at Chepstow, when the three big Somerset cheeses of National Hunt racing gather for a three-runner novices' chase. Puntal competes for Martin Pipe and Le Duc for Paul Nicholls, but the intriguing athlete is Philip Hobbs's Brother Joe (1.20).

For those of the view that the jumps season is still starting it is a sobering realisation that Brother Joe here goes for his seventh novice chase victory of the campaign. While the ground remains hard so too does his trainer's resolve to keep him running.

The big lads also come together at Wincanton for the Badger Ales Handicap Chase, in which Pipe at least has a numerical advantage with Chicuelo and Maximize against Gunther McBride (Hobbs) and Un Jour A Vassy (Nicholls). It must be very short odds that one of that brigade will win, but then short odds never did build a fortune. It is possible to ignore the obvious and make a case for a horse on a hat-trick and also the winner of this contest 12 months ago, Swansea Bay (2.15).

Comments