Racing: Eddery thrives on drive to be the best: Richard Edmondson reports on a jockey who has been riding winners for 25 years and is aiming to add to his tally in today's 1,000 Guineas

Click to follow
WITHIN the next 24 hours, Pat Eddery will have a good idea as to what the fates have in store for him this season.

Tomorrow, he goes to Portman Square, the Jockey Club's headquarters, in an effort to overturn a ban and free himself for Saturday's 2,000 Guineas; this afternoon the Irishman participates in the first Classic, the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket, on a filly whose very name suggests his fortunes are in the balance, John Gosden's Prophecy. If he loses either of these encounters, the world will know about it.

At 42, Eddery maintains a huge passion for success and when this is denied him he looks like a man who has handed over the deeds in a card game. It was America that gave us the notion that being a bad loser is a quality, and it is Eddery who has used this concept to kindle a career which celebrated the 25th anniversary of its first winner this week.

An example of how success controls Eddery's moods came at the start of this season, when he rode in Dubai as others competed at Doncaster's curtain-raiser. The day before the International Jockeys' Challenge, he was an unusually relaxed figure - drink in one hand, cigarette in the other, wearing a patterned shirt, shades and a smile - at a beach club on the Gulf as he augmented a two-week holiday in Antigua. The next evening, after four losing rides, his face was as long as a gasman's mac.

It has been this way since Alvaro transported a young apprentice to victory over Epsom's unique gradients in 1969. Since then Classics and top events around the world have been collected like stamps, victories bringing only fleeting cheer to a naturally lugubrious


There has been one notable departure though, Eddery's method of riding. He does not believe his style has changed but he cannot have seen the old films. Earlier in his career, during races such as Grundy's 1975 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth victory over Bustino, he can be seen sitting tall in the saddle, as if peering over a wall. These days, he is more streamlined and crouched in the seat, low enough to bite a horse's neck.

'I have noticed a change,' Walter Swinburn, a weighing-room colleague, said. 'He's got much lower in the saddle, driving in behind a horse.' Like Eddery, Swinburn has ridden in many places, and on his travels has seen few to compare with his workmate. 'Pat Eddery's right up there with the very best,' he says. 'He's at the very top in the world.'

The element that defines Pat Eddery is not his posture, however, but his work in a finish. The Irishman has developed a sliding motion in the saddle, shunting forward like a child in a car seat awaiting the next toilet stop.

Like Lester Piggott before him, Eddery has had the sincerest compliment paid him by imitators, and as in the Long Fellow's case, the apers have always come unstuck. 'Pat's similar to Lester in that if you try to copy their styles it can quite easily go wrong,' Swinburn said. 'But whatever Pat does in the saddle his horse seems to keep going forward. He generates something from somewhere and horses just run for him.'

This aggressive technique leads many to believe that Eddery's mounts take a pasting. Those in the know believe quite the opposite is true. 'Pat's got a lot of sympathy for a horse, he's a very kind rider,' Swinburn said. 'People talk about his rat-a-tat finish, but Pat Eddery is a horseman and that's one of his greatest assets. Without mentioning names, there are some jockeys whose horses don't come on, but all Pat's horses improve for a run. He knows exactly how much to get out of a horse and when to down-throttle when it's needed.'

Eddery likes to deploy these talents in daring fashion, which leads to flamboyant victories and occasional spectacular disasters. More than any other jockey, Eddery will wait for a gap to appear when one seems unlikely, unfazed by the prospect of charting a path up the crowded inside.

He cannot explain what takes him down these avenues. 'I suppose I watched Piggott a lot when I first got going,' he said. 'You always look at the No 1 don't you? But I learned that you can't copy one person. I couldn't tell you how I ride. It comes with experience, riding every day and getting a feel for horses. The only thing all jockeys need is the drive and a will to win.'

Eddery's achievements have made him a hero to all in the weighing-room; he is the man they would all like to be. When he goes to his appeal tomorrow, one of his main witnesses will be Lanfranco Dettori, with whom he tussled when picking up his suspension for improper riding at Beverley last Thursday and also the jockey most likely to relieve the champion of his title this season. . In return, the Italian will hitch a lift in Eddery's Cessna Crusader for the afternoon card at Newmarket.

Eddery will be doing his bit this year for vendors of aircraft fuel. 'I'll be in France every Sunday and here six days a week,' he said. 'The mileage is amazing. Trips to America, Italy, Germany and all the rest. The only time I get a day off is when I get a suspension.'

If the workload is staggering so are the rewards. Eddery, his wife Carolyn, and their three children live on the sprawling Musk Hill Farm near Aylesbury, adjacent to their Barrettstown Stud. His job as retained rider to the Saudi Arabian owner, Khalid Abdullah, is a lucrative one.

Eddery's achievements during this round are manifold, and of the two omissions that remain, one may be fulfilled this afternoon. 'I'd like to win the fillies Guineas because I've never won it, and I'd like to win another Arc,' he said. 'I'm level with Freddie (Head) and Yves (St Martin) and I'd like to hold the record with five.'

There are grey flecks in the hair above Eddery's sharp green eyes these days, but no one has suggested that his is a sliding talent. Yet he knows one day this will come. 'As long as I'm riding well and feel as though I'm doing the job right I'll keep going,' he said. 'But if I start hearing people saying I've gone and I don't feel right myself I'll pack up.'

There will be despair when that moment arrives. Eddery cannot imagine an existence without four- legged accomplices. 'Race-riding every day, sometimes at two meetings, takes your whole day and your whole life away. You're busy and life goes by quickly.'

The work ethic is now burned into Eddery, and he will never cool down sufficiently to be an 18-hole and a-few-in-the-snug man. He remains an awesome and unremitting adversary. The Classic jockeys today and the Jockey Club Stewards tomorrow will attest to that.

(Photograph omitted)