There have been a series of shocks in the horse racing world. First the season was grounded to a halt, as a result of the lockdown measures imposed by the global coronavirus pandemic, and then just as the sport got off and running – albeit in a slightly different way than we’ve come to expect – legendary jockey Barry Geraghty announced his retirement, at the age of 40.
Fans were fortunate enough to see him in action at the Cheltenham Festival back in March and pre-pandemic, where he added to his remarkable roll call of accolades with five wins from 11 rides, taking his tally at the prestigious meeting to 43 – sitting second to his compatriot Ruby Walsh on the all-time honours list.
While we won’t see the County Meath jockey’s name on the horse racing results for today, his illustrious career will continue to live long in the memory – which is why we’ve decided to look back at some of the biggest wins in the biggest races and to mention that if you’re looking to get in on the action in some of today’s races, there are a few well known sites that are now accepting PayPal as a means for playing the odds..
2003: Grand National (Monty’s Pass)
For most jockeys, racing in the Grand National is the stuff that dreams are made of – but to win it as well, it’s just the icing on the cake and epitomises the pinnacle of the sport. Geraghty was fortunate enough to race in every Aintree centrepiece between 2000 and 2014, before injury ruled him out of the 2015 edition. In that time, he won once and placed on a further four occasions.
Riding the 16/1 chance, Monty’s Pass and Geraghty may not have been fancied by the bookies, but the duo won the National in some style – a 12 length victory over outsider, Supreme Glory, with pre-race favourite Shotgun Willy (ridden by Ruby Walsh) a non-finisher. The Aintree circuit may be gruelling, but when Geraghty pulled clear with two fences to jump, victory was in his sights. He commented afterwards: “I had a lovely run. There was no traffic up front. It’s a thrill to finish a National never mind to win one.”
2013: Gold Cup (Bobs Worth)
While it was difficult to choose between Geraghty’s two Gold Cup wins – he was also successful in 2003, riding Kicking King – we had to include Bobs Worth somewhere! The gelding became the first horse since Flyingbolt to win three different races at consecutive Cheltenham Festivals – and completed the hat-trick with the 2013 Gold Cup.
Bobs Worth was the favourite going into the Blue Riband race, and didn’t disappoint – landing trainer Nicky Henderson his 50th Cheltenham Festival win. Only nine horses ran, the smallest field since 1992 – but it was a thrilling race, regardless. Geraghty guided the 11/4 favourite through the latter stages of the race, and pulled clear to land an incredible seven-length victory over Sir Des Champs. Geraghty was delighted, telling BBC Radio 5 Live: “He is such a great little horse who just loves the job. We had faith in the horse. Nicky Henderson knew he would have him fit enough – he knows how to get them ready for Cheltenham.”
2020: RSA Chase (Champ)
As mentioned, Geraghty was in the saddle for five winners as he signed off on his illustrious racing career with five wins. While his final ride of the 2020 Cheltenham Festival was a winning one, guiding Willie Mullins’ Saint Roi to victory in the County Hurdle, we had to mention the manner in which he won the RSA Chase.
It was on the Day 2 of the Festival that he rode the JP McManus-owned gelding Champ to a remarkable but stunning win. It looked a two-horse battle between pre-race favourite Allaho and Minella Indo, but galvanised by Geraghty, Champ made a late surge – making up ground of a remarkable eight lengths – to join the duo in the closing stages and claim a narrow but thrilling victory, by a length. After the race, the jockey said: “I thought I had no chance jumping the last, but I knew three strides later I was starting to smell the money.”
Thanks for the memories, Barry!