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McCoy leads the tributes to true genius Pat Eddery

By Frank Brownlow

Published 11/11/2015

Racing giant: Pat Eddery after winning on Reel Buddy at Glorious Goodwood in 2003
Racing giant: Pat Eddery after winning on Reel Buddy at Glorious Goodwood in 2003

AP McCoy has hailed 11-time champion flat jockey Pat Eddery as "a true genius".

Ulster great McCoy, who retired last May, recalled being enthralled as a boy when watching Eddery - who died yesterday aged 63 - in action in his pomp.

"Pat was an iconic figure who I was lucky enough to get to know over the years. He was a genius in the saddle," said McCoy, the 20-times champion jump jockey.

"He had his own unique style and it was very successful. He was very knowledgeable."

Eddery went on to be a trainer after retiring from the saddle.

"I was very honoured when he asked me to ride one of his horses - unfortunately I didn't win on it!" said McCoy.

"Pat was a very kind man, very generous. But he had a great will to win and was highly talented.

"People always remember him for winning the Arc on the great Dancing Brave when he brought the horse through from virtually last place.

"He had great ability and great belief in his ability.

"Away from the track he was great fun and very good with people. He had no airs and graces. All the jockeys looked up to him."

The legendary Lester Piggott rode against Eddery many times, describing him as "a natural" and "a dear friend".

Piggott said: "Pat Eddery was as fierce an opponent on the racecourse as he was a loyal and dear friend off it. He was a natural horseman, he exuded class and always knew what to do in a race.

"The horses he was associated with speak for themselves, and I doubt you'd find a jockey with a sharper tactical brain or stronger in a finish.

"He was a huge personality in the weighing room, and wasn't slow to keep us all grounded with his wit and sense of humour. He will be sorely missed."

Eddery was undoubtedly one of the greatest jockeys to grace the 20th century and beyond.

Only Sir Gordon Richards rode more winners and was champion more times than Eddery, who had a colossal 4,632 victories in the UK and 11 titles, the same as Piggott.

Dubbed a boy wonder because of his natural talent, Eddery rode his first winner in 1969 and was still one of the best in the business when he called it a day in 2003.

The 36 years dedicated to the saddle proved hard to replace and even the next best thing which is training horses just was not the same for Eddery. He had been born to ride.

Born in Newbridge, in Co Kildare, he was the fifth of 12 children of Jimmy and Josephine Eddery.

He was not alone in carrying on the family tradition as his brothers Paul and Robert have also made their mark as jockey and trainer respectively.

Racing was in the blood. Eddery's father was a good jockey, finishing second in the 1955 Derby on Panaslipper, before winning the Irish Derby on the same horse, while his maternal grandfather, Jack Moylan, was also a leading rider in Ireland.

At the age of eight, Eddery started riding out at Seamus McGrath's stables near Leopardstown before being formally apprenticed there on his 14th birthday.

Surprisingly, he was out of luck until moving to England to complete his apprenticeship with Frenchie Nicholson, the father of David Nicholson, himself a top jumps jockey and trainer in his time.

The academy was second to none and produced many top jockeys, with Eddery being the best.

Champion apprentice in 1971, he became number one rider to Peter Walwyn's powerful stable in 1973 and the following year he was champion jockey for the first time.

The first of his three Derby wins soon followed as he guided Walwyn's Grundy to a famous victory at Epsom in 1975 before beating Bustino in the race of the century that was the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot.

Eddery went on to take the Epsom blue riband again on Golden Fleece in 1982 and on Quest For Fame eight years later.

In 1981 he became retained jockey to top owner Robert Sangster and they teamed up to enjoy many big-race successes with the likes of El Gran Senor, Caerleon and Sadler's Wells as well as Golden Fleece, all of whom were trained at Ballydoyle by Vincent O'Brien.

He also partnered Sangster's Detroit to victory in the 1980 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, the first of a record-equalling four triumphs in the Longchamp spectacular.

In 1986 he rode the brilliant Dancing Brave - the best horse he ever sat on - to victory in the King George and the Arc.

He reached a notable landmark in the 1997 St Leger, when his success on the John Dunlop-trained Silver Patriarch was his 4,000th in Britain.

He has also proved his worth on the other side of the Atlantic with Breeders' Cup wins on Pebbles in the 1985 Turf and Sheikh Albadou in the Sprint in 1991 and Tolomeo in the 1983 Arlington Million.

Eddery's best season numerically came in 1990 when he partnered 209 winners and his last championship was in 1996.

He was awarded an honorary OBE in 2005.

Belfast Telegraph

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