Walter ‘Choirboy’ Swinburn, who rode Shergar into Derby history, dies at 55

At the age of 19, Swinburn rode Shergar to 10-length Epsom win
It’s absolutely shocking he should die aged 55, says John Francome

Walter Swinburn, who rode Shergar to a record-breaking 10-length success in the Derby in 1981 when he was just 19 years old, has died at the age of 55.

Swinburn was recognised as one of the finest and most stylish jockeys of his generation, and rode with a confidence born of a rich natural talent. He rode his first winner – Paddy’s Luck – at Kempton Park in July 1978, and secured his place in turf history less than three years later aboard Sir Michael Stoute’s Shergar.

Stoute might easily have looked for a replacement for Swinburn at Epsom due to his relative inexperience: Shergar was the jockey’s first ride in the Classic. But he kept faith with the fresh-faced teenager, widely known by the nickname of “the Choirboy”, following an emphatic success for horse and rider in the Chester Vase.

Shergar dismissed his field with similar ease at Epsom, turning for home around Tattenham Corner with a clear lead and drawing further away from his pursuers for much of the straight until Swinburn started to ease him down approaching the line. The jockey was suspended for the Irish Derby, when Lester Piggott replaced him in the saddle and recorded another impressive success, but Swinburn was back aboard when the brilliant three-year-old followed up in the King George & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot.

Swinburn was on the best horse by far in the 1981 Derby, but almost certainly on the second-best runner in the Classic five years later when his well-judged ride on Shahrastani denied the fast-finishing Dancing Brave, who had turned for home with many lengths to make up. He rode the third and final Derby winner of his career aboard Lammtarra in 1995, dedicating the success to the memory of Alex Scott, the colt’s first trainer, who had been murdered nine months earlier.

Swinburn was beaten aboard Shergar in the 1981 St Leger, after which the colt was retired to stud, but won all four of Britain’s other Classic events at least once. He was also successful in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in 1983 aboard All Along, and in the 1996 Breeders’ Cup Turf on Stoute’s Pilsudski.

Swinburn struggled with his weight from an early stage of his riding career, and suffered life-threatening injuries when he was thrown into a running rail at Sha Tin racecourse in Hong Kong in 1996. He was in a coma for four days afterwards, and his injuries included a punctured lung.

He retired from race-riding in 2000 because of weight issues and embarked on a new career as a trainer, saddling horses mainly for his father-in-law, Peter Harris. He saddled more than 250 winners, including Julienas in the Royal Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot in 2011, but decided to relinquish his licence later the same year having been advised that his training operation “was not viable at the moment”.

Swinburn also worked as a pundit on the Channel 4 Racing team, and wrote a newspaper column. “I spoke to him a couple of months ago and he seemed in really good form,” John Francome, who worked with Swinburn on Channel 4, said on Monday evening. “It’s absolutely shocking he should die aged 55. No age at all. He was an absolutely gifted rider, you never saw any horse pulling with him or having their head in the air. He was a little bit of a troubled soul in some ways, he had weight problems which probably affected him a lot more than other people, but that said that seemed to be a long time ago and he seemed to all intents and purposes fine, but obviously he wasn’t. He could ride a race, he had a really good feel for what was going on underneath him. He must have been a fantastic jockey to have riding for you.”

James Fanshawe, the Newmarket trainer who was an assistant to Stoute while Swinburn was the stable jockey, said on Monday that he had been a “brilliant” jockey, and that his successful association with the headstrong miler Zilzal highlighted Swinburn’s sympathy for his mounts. “Not many people could have ridden Zilzal,” Fanshawe said. “He was a brilliant horse, but had a fiery nature. Walter was brilliant on those sort of horses. His big-race record would stand comparison to anyone.”

 

Courtesy : The Guardian

Australia’s Hugh Bowman wins Longines International Jockeys’ Championship 2016 at Happy Valley

Australia’s Hugh Bowman put the seal on a spectacular 2016 by winning the Longines International Jockeys’ Championship on Wednesday night at Happy Valley racecourse, Hong Kong.

In what proved to be a tense battle between twelve of the world’s best jockeys who were each representing their country or region, Bowman denied Ryan Moore a third title in thrilling fashion.

The Longines International Jockeys’ Championship was contested over four races of from the nine race card at Happy Valley, with 12 points awarded to the jockey for a win, six points for a second place, and four points for a third place.

Bowman claimed the 2016 title with a total of 18 points, four ahead of Moore with 14 points, with Mirco Demuro and Keita Tosaki, finishing equal third with 12 points.

Bowman started by winning the opening leg – race 4 – on Premiere by a length and a half from for trainer John Size, who played his part by providing two of the four wins. Secret Agent came in second and Powermax in third.

The second leg went to script when Moore rode Giant Turtle to victory by a length and three-quarters for Tony Millard. Moore never really looked like losing on the favourite for what was his best ride of the night, coming in ahead of Casa Master and Good Choice

Those victories quickly narrowed the competition down to a three-way contest between Bowman, Moore and USA-based jockey Florent Geroux, who had second-place points behind Premiere and his best rides still to come.

Bowman looked ready to claim the series title with a race to spare in leg 3 and race 7 when he raced to what looked an unassailable lead on David Ferraris-trained Kiram.

However Italian rider Mirco Demuro lifted the Peter Ho-trained Mutual Joy from an impossible position halfway up the straight before snatching victory on the line by a short head from Kiram. Moore for his part dead-heated on Midnite Promise for third along with Geroux on Works of Art to keep the series open.

The final leg proved to be something of an anti-climax. After 2015 series winner Gavin Lerena finished without a mount when the vets took Nitro Express out at the start, Japan’s Keita Tosaki took the spoils on Size-trained outsider Big Bang Bong, with both Bowman and Moore unplaced and without points.

It meant the series had been decided in favour of Bowman by a combination of two minor photo finishes. The first with Moore’s dead-heat for third in the third leg and sharing the four points for the minor place, and then the camera shot in the eighth race to decide whether he had run third or what was finally adjudged as fourth.

The jockeys’ talent will be celebrated again later this week with the Longines World’s Best Jockey Award ceremony, held during the annual Gala dinner of the Longines Hong Kong International Races, on Friday 9 December. This joint initiative from Longines and the IFHA honours the jockey who has scored the most points throughout the year in the 100 highest-rated Group One and Grade One races staged between 1 December 2015 to 30 November 2016.

 

Courtesy : Eurosport