Racing: Eddery puts Lingfield before luxury in endless quest

It is one of those raw December days when the sun rises almost apologetically for a few hours and swiftly departs. After half an hour at Lingfield Park racecourse on Wednesday, thoughts turn inevitably to home, a roaring log fire and perhaps some mulled wine. Only the hardened, well-wrapped enthusiast will be found indulging his love for all-weather racing.

It is one of those raw December days when the sun rises almost apologetically for a few hours and swiftly departs. After half an hour at Lingfield Park racecourse on Wednesday, thoughts turn inevitably to home, a roaring log fire and perhaps some mulled wine. Only the hardened, well-wrapped enthusiast will be found indulging his love for all-weather racing.

Yet one name on the runners' and riders' board, a name which stands out like one of those Christmas light-festooned houses, makes a visit to the Surrey course worthwhile. Amongst the apprehensive, fresh-faced apprentices, who look like their mothers shouldn't have let them out on such a day, the gimlet-eyed Pat Eddery, still plundering the racecourse for winners at the age of 50 and whose career spans five decades, stands apart, a giant of a competitor in a small man's world.

The Irishman admits that he detests the all-weather, with its kickback. Certainly, it is an environment far removed from the years when he won the Derby on Grundy, Golden Fleece and Quest For Fame, and partnered four Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe victors, his mounts including that scintillating performer Dancing Brave.

His early contemporaries have all long retired now, with the exception of George Duffield, and Eddery could have done so himself years ago. He owns a magnificent house an hour's drive away from Lingfield (at this time of year, he locks his private plane in the hangar until next March), with a two-furlong drive, where the views include his stud farm. He could, like several other top Flat jockeys, have escaped to the rather warmer climes of the Caribbean.

Instead, here he was, trying to deliver two final victories before the season ends on New Year's Eve, to claim a century of winners for the 29th time in his career. In fact, his finishing position in six races read: 7th, 6th, 2nd, 9th, 11th and 9th, so the 11-times champion was back again yesterday, and will be again in a week's time, if necessary.

Successful or not, come March this obsessive of the saddle will return to the fray once more. "Reaching that 100 winners is so important to me. I'm really determined to get it," he says in his soft Dublin accent. "Then next season I'll go for my 30th hundred. I'll just keep going as long as I'm enjoying it. The day I can't face it, I'll hang up my boots, but at the moment I have no thoughts about that."

He sees the doubts spread across his questioner's face. "This is what I've done all my life," he adds in explanation. "As long as I have still got that love for the game I may as well keep going."

Next season offers exciting possibilities. "I rode some nice two-year-olds at the back end and, hopefully, they might mature into decent three-year-olds." They include John Dunlop's Green Desert filly Goodness Gracious, and Peter Harris's colt Barrissimo, a 10-length winner on his second start.

If Eddery is to partner them, the sacrifices which keep his naked frame resembling something like an exhibit from Professor von Hagens' Body Worlds must continue: the daily saunas to keep his weight down to 8st 4lb and the dietary deprivation.

"My weight is good and, as for food, well, I've been doing this for 34 years and if I miss a meal it doesn't bother me. I haven't eaten today, but I'll have a bit of dinner tonight. A couple of lamb chops and little bit of potato and that'll be it. Anyway, if I ate too much my stomach couldn't take it. I'd be on the floor."

Eddery was 15 when he rode in his first race, when an apprentice to Frenchie Nicholson, on True Time at the Curragh. By the age of 22 he had secured his first Classic, on Polygamy in the Oaks. He registered his first Derby success on Grundy the following year.

His total of centuries is three more than Lester Piggott already – he also passed Old Stoneface's winners' record of 4,493 in June – and he is five ahead of Sir Gordon Richards, although he would be riding well into his fifties to beat the great knight of the turf's tally of 4,870 winners. It is whispered Eddery will be awarded a gong in the New Year Honours list. True or not, he merits such a distinction.

A smile spreads across his features when you ask him about the aspiring Edderys of today. "They're nice kids and they ask me for advice, which is very flattering, but I'm not the oldest still going. George Duffield is four years older than me. The younger jocks all take the piss a bit about us still riding, but you laugh it off." He admires Frankie Dettori and Kieren Fallon, but maintains: "Piggott was the best. He was a genius."

He was, but for undiminished enthusiasm, devilish desire for victory and a natural gift for galvanising the best from his equine partners, few have excelled like Eddery.

Sport
Club legend Paul Scholes is scared United could disappear into 'the wilderness'
football
News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
travel
Arts and Entertainment
music
Sport
football
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

HR Advisor - East Anglia - Field-based

£35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: To be considered for this position you will n...

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home