Racing: A turn for the better - Graham Bradley - 'I was at one of the lowest ebbs of my life'

Milestones of '97: From the big server with a big future to the uneasy rider who nearly fell to earth

Christmas 1996. Graham Bradley's seasonal total of winners stood at 22 from 126 rides and he occupied 15th place in the jockeys' table. At the same point last week it was 22 from 129, making him 16th in the table. Nothing much had changed there, then? Well, not exactly.

At 37, Bradley is one of the circuit's senior jump jockeys, and although he has had one of those careers that is often described as chequered, there is no doubting his skill as a horseman. He rode his first winner 17 years ago and has won most of the big races in the calendar since, including the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1983.

But for him the start of 1997 was almost the beginning of the end. "I'd ridden only seven winners for my guv'nor Charlie Brooks," he reflected. "Everywhere I went to ride them they ran badly. Every time I didn't ride one it won. I was just having no luck whatsoever."

A pivotal moment on the downward slope came in the important Grand National Trial at Haydock back in February. Two ran from Brooks' Lambourn stable: Suny Bay and the in-form Hennessy Gold Cup winner Couldn't be Better. Bradley remembered: "I chose Couldn't Be Better, who finished fourth of five. And miles ahead, Suny Bay won, with Jamie Osborne on board.

"I was pretty down then, but I was looking forward to riding Suny Bay in the Grand National. And then his owner decided to keep Jamie on him, to keep the partnership. It was a desperate disappointment and I was at one of the lowest ebbs of my life.

"I was completely fed up with everything, with the early mornings riding and schooling, with the travelling, with the dieting, with the trailing off to the Folkestones on a Monday. Even going into the yard, where some of my best friends are, meant very little. And I think if Suny Bay had won the National [he was second], that would have been it. I'd have packed it in there and then.

"I was seriously considering it, and had made a few tentative enquiries about alternative employment, but more than one person said that I shouldn't as I was still riding too well, though it didn't feel like that to me. It was Richard Guest who told me not to make a hasty decision, to go away on holiday and think about it. And in the meantime, I met Dave Roberts."

Roberts is arguably the country's best jockeys' agent, with such as Tony McCoy and Adrian Maguire on his books. Bradley said: "I talked to him at the Lesters awards dinner, he persuaded me not to give up and took me on. And I do feel that if he hadn't had that conversation with me that night, I wouldn't still be riding."

The roundabouts are now swinging in his favour again. An injury to Osborne has meant he regained the ride on Suny Bay, on whom he promptly won the Hennessy, and picked up his partnership with Senor El Betrutti, another of the season's flying greys. The revitalised Yorkshireman reckons he is set fair for at least another three seasons, saying: "My weight is good, my bottle is still good, and I'm really enjoying it all again. It is extraordinary how it has turned around, but I could not be happier."

Suggested Topics
News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
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?
Extras
indybest
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

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...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

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