Racing: Arkle's rider, Pat Taaffe, dies at 62

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PAT TAAFFE, the man who rode Arkle, died yesterday in a Dublin hospital. He was 62. His health had been poor for some time and he underwent a heart transplant last year, writes John Cobb.

Taaffe and Arkle are acknowledged throughout racing as the greatest combination of horse and rider ever to clear a steeplechase fence. The horse's achievements are without parallel and although he was a natural athlete and brilliant jumper, the part played by Taaffe in enabling Arkle's talent to flourish should not be underestimated.

Together they dominated National Hunt racing in the mid-Sixties, and every conversation since in which great racing achievements are debated. The conclusion is always in favour of Arkle and Taaffe.

Victories in three Cheltenham Gold Cups between 1964 and 1966, in the King George VI Chase, two Hennessy Gold Cups, an Irish Grand National and a Whitbread Gold Cup tell only part of the story of their successes. What was really remarkable was the manner in which they were achieved. So dominant were the partnership that a new range of weights had to be framed to accommodate Arkle.

Tall for a jockey, Taaffe never had the most conventional style in the saddle but he was effective. He won many races through his skills 'out in the country' and often contests were over long before the final fence.

Taaffe showed too that he was just as capable on lesser horses, adding a fourth Gold Cup victory on Fort Leney in 1968. He won the Grand National twice on Quare Times (1955) and Gay Trip (1970), and recorded four Irish National successes.

After retiring as a jockey he went on to train one of the few horses who could justifiably be compared with Arkle, the 1974 Gold Cup winner Captain Christy. But Taaffe was too modest a man to market his skills as a trainer and the second career did not flourish.

(Photograph omitted)

Obituary, page 27