When a horse surges to a famous victory it is typically the trainer that earns all the acclaim, but it is worth sparing a thought for the jockey. They are out there in the thick of the action, putting their bodies on the line in a bid to achieve sporting greatness, and without their mastery of the form there would be no horse racing. Over the years there have been countless examples of jockeys getting their tactics spot on and snatching victory from the jaws of defeat with their heroics. Here are five of the very best performances from jockeys:
AP McCoy, 2002 Feast of St Raymond Novices Chase
Sir Tony is the most successful jockey in history and is fully deserving of all the accolades that have come his way. He spent plenty of time on hospital beds en route to winning 20 consecutive Champion Jockey titles and more than 4,000 races, and his body is now a patchwork of metal plates and scars.
He put in many stupendous performances throughout his long and distinguished career, soaring to victory in the Grand National and the Gold Cup, but one performance that stands out for sheer opportunism was the Feast of St Raymond Novices Chase back in 2002. McCoy was riding the favourite, Family Business, but was unseated with more than a circuit left to race. Five runners went on, but they too started to fall or refuse to jump, so McCoy remounted and came home alone, to the amazement of the crowd and punters up and down the country. Hundreds of thousands of pounds had been staked in betting shops across Britain on Family Business, so it was a tough day for the bookies.
Tom Cannon, 2012 Plumpton
Cannon has ridden plenty of winners during his illustrious career, but none will live in the memory quite like his ride at Plumpton in 2012.
He was unseated clearing a fence on In the Jungle and found himself clinging on for dear life. The overwhelming majority of jockeys would have tumbled to the turf and seen their dreams of victory go up in smoke. But Cannon is made of sterner stuff and he performed a Herculean feat of acrobatics, pirouetting in mid-air, clutching his mount’s neck and swivelling back onto his seat. He rallied and went on to win the race in sensational fashion.
Ruby Walsh, 2000 Grand National
Walsh is another jockey that has regularly battled back from horrendous injuries and emerged stronger each time. He had his spleen removed after a bad fall at Cheltenham in 2008 and four months later he was back in the saddle and landed seven winners at the Cheltenham Festival.
When you check out all the latest horse racing spread betting markets for the big meetings you will see that Walsh is regularly aboard the favourites, but he really does make a difference.
Arguably his greatest ride came in 2000, when he had been out with a broken leg but returned to win the Grand National for his father, Ted, on Papillon. The horse started the day at 33/1 but was heavily backed by punters and went all the way into 10/1. Walsh did not disappoint and produced a flawless performance to win it by a length and a half.
Frankie Detorri, 1996 Ascot
The most famous day in horse racing history saw Detorri pull off his Magnificent Seven and take the bookmakers to the cleaners. The day became known as the Mug Punters’ Revenge as the effusive Italian was backed heavily and made several spectators very rich. At such a competitive meeting, riding a single winner is a huge success, but for Detorri to land all seven winners on the card was positively flabbergasting.
He got off to a flying start on Wall Street, who won the Cumberland Lodge Stakes at 2/1, and then followed it up on 12/1 shot Diffident in the Diadem. Alarm bells started ringing when he claimed the feature race, the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, on Mark of Esteem. By the time Decorated Hero won the fourth race of the day, punters were getting really excited and lumped on his final three runners of the day.
The bookmakers panicked and the odds on his runners plummeted, but they were still annihilated as Fatefully won at 7/4, Lochangel took the Blue Seal Stakes at 5/4 and then Detorri had the opportunity to make it a perfect seven on Fujiyama Crest. “I thought Frankie would be absolutely knackered and this old bugger takes a bit of riding over two miles,” said the horse’s trainer, Sir Michael Stoute. But Detorri produced one final heroic effort and rode Fujiyama Crest to victory, completing a 25,051/1 accumulator and sparking joy among thousands of punters.
Bob Champion, 1981 Grand National
This story has all the key elements of a heroic underdog tale. Chestnut gelding Aldaniti suffered a terrible leg injury in 1979 and was out for more than a year, but returned in time for the most famous race in the British calendar.
Champion had been struck down by testicular cancer and had only just recovered from an extensive bout of treatment and surgery sessions in time for the National. The duo was given little chance of victory, but both performed stupendously to win it by four lengths.
They walked off with the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Team award and the story warmed the hearts of millions.
Martin Green is an experienced horse racing correspondent and tipster.