Jimmy Fitzgerald, trainer of the 1985 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Forgive'N Forget, scourge of the bookmakers, and one of the outstanding National Hunt trainers in the North of England in recent decades, died yesterday at the age of 69.
FitzGerald, born appropriately enough in the Co Tipperary town of Horse and Jockey, had a successful career as a jump jockey, including victory in the 1965 Scottish National on Brasher, before fracturing his skull in a career-ending fall the following year.
However, it was as a trainer of jumpers from his Norton Grange stable at Malton that FitzGerald made his name as a shrewd handler of talent who was even more adept at bringing off well-planned coups. After 33 years with a licence and 1,200 winners, he handed over the reins to his son Tim at the end of February last year.
Mark Dwyer, his former stable jockey, said: "We had many good times. Forgive'N Forget would obviously be one of the highlights but there were many others, including Galway Blaze winning the Hennessy and Androma in the Scottish National.
"I came to him from Ireland in 1982 and we had some great years together. He was a proper man, one of a kind."
FitzGerald was instrumental in guiding the fledgling career of the current Flat champion jockey, Kieren Fallon, when he came over from Ireland. "He was a great friend and I admired him a lot," Fallon said. "The game won't seem the same without him. He was like a father figure to me and his death is a great shock to racing as a whole.
"He was always there for me, especially when I went off the rails a bit, and I wouldn't be where I am today but for him."
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