Pat Eddery The late Patrick James John “Pat” Eddery, who died in 2015, at the premature age of 63, after a long period of ill health, was the second most successful jockey, numerically, in the history of British horse racing. Between 1969 and 2003, Eddery rode 4,633 domestic winners, placing him behind only Sir Gordon Richards (4,870) in the all-time list, and ahead of Lester Piggot (4,493); like Piggott, he was Champion Jockey 11 times.


In 1966, on his fourteenth birthday, Eddery was formally apprenticed to one of the legendary names of the Irish turf, Seamus McGrath, at Glencairn, near Leopardstown racecourse. His first ride in public, at the Curragh in August, 1967, finished last of seven but, following a move to Herbert ‘Frenchie’ Nicholson – a successful trainer renowned for his ‘academy’ of young riders, but a notoriously hard taskmaster – at Cheltenham, Eddery eventually rode his first winner, Alvaro, at Epsom in April, 1969.


Nevertheless, Eddery became Champion Apprentice in 1971 with 71 winners and, in 1972, was offered the position of stable jockey with Peter Walwyn at Seven Barrows in Lambourn, Berkshire.In 1974, Eddery rode 148 winners, including his first British Classic winner, Polygamy, trained by Walwyn, in the Oaks at Epsom, to become Champion Jockey for the first time. At the age of 22, he was, in fact, the youngest Champion Jockey since Sir Gordon Richards won the first of his 26 jockeys’ titles in 1925.


The Walwyn-Eddery partnership, which lasted for eight years, yielded three more jockeys’ titles in a row for Eddery, in 1975, 1976 and 1977. The best horse Walwyn trained in that period was Grundy who, in 1975, won the Derby, the Irish Derby and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes and was named British Horse of the Year. The latter race, in which Grundy, ridden by Eddery, was involved in a thrilling, head-to-head duel with Bustino, ridden by Joe Mercer, up the straight, eventually winning by half a length, was justifiably dubbed ‘The Race of the Century’.


Eddery did not become Champion Jockey again until 1986, the year in which he replaced Greville Starkey as the jockey of Dancing Brave, owned by Prince Khalid Abdullah and trained by Guy Harwood. In the absence of the injured Starkey, Eddery rode Dancing Brave to victory in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes and kept the ride in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe later that season. In the latter contest, Eddery produced a magnificent riding performance; one that would, ultimately, define his career. Employing exaggerated waiting tactics, Eddery was virtually last entering the straight but, having made up ground from a seemingly impossible position, challenged widest, and latest, of all, to win by 1½ lengths in record time.


The following season, 1987, Eddery accepted a retainer from Prince Khalid Abdullah and their partnership, which lasted until 1994, yielded five more jockeys’ titles, in 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991 and 1993. In fact, in 1990, Eddery recorded his highest ever seasonal aggregate, of 209 winners, making him the first jockey since Sir Gordon Richards in 1952 to ride over 200 winners in a season. Highlights of his time in the familiar green, pink and white silks included Quest For Fame, who won the Derby in 1990 and Zafonic, who won the 2,000 Guineas in 1993.


Eddery was Champion Jockey, as a freelance, for the eleventh, and final, time in 1996. That year he won 1,000 Guineas on Bosra Sham and the Oaks on Lady Carla, both trained by the late Sir Henry Cecil.

Seb Sanders Seb Sanders rode his first winner, Band On The Run, trained by Brian McMahon, in 1990 and was Champion Apprentice in 1995, with 61 winners. However, despite riding out his claim that year and reaching the landmark of a hundred winners in a season for the first time in 1997 – the year in which he also partnered his first Group 1 winner, Compton Place, in the July Cup at Newmarket – Sanders had to wait until 2007 before becoming Champion Jockey for the one and only time.


Even then, winning the jockeys’ title was a bittersweet experience because, having started the final day of the turf campaign, November Handicap Day at Doncaster, a single winner ahead of Jamie Spencer, who’d been Champion Jockey in 2005, his younger, more illustrious rival steered the favourite, Inchnadamph, to a ready, 8-length win in the very last race of the season, to tie their seasonal totals at 190 winners each. So, for the first time since 1923, when Steve Donoghue shared the jockeys’ title with Charlie Elliott, there was a dead-heat in the race to become Champion Jockey.


Sanders may not have won the jockeys’ title outright, but 2007 was, far and away, the most successful season, numerically, of his riding career, with 213 winners in the calendar year as a whole and over £1.5 million in prize money. His previous best yearly total had been 165 in 2004, the year in which he succeeded George Duffield as stable jockey to Sir Mark Prescott and his subsequent best was 106, in both 2008 and 2009.


All in all, Sanders rode over 2,000 winners, reaching a hundred winners in Britain every year between 2002 and 2010 inclusive. The latter years of his riding career were dogged by weight problems, forcing him to ride without boots, of any description, on many occasions. He last rode in Britain at Newmarket in the summer of 2015 and, although he also rode in Qatar in the 2015/16 season, quit the saddle for good in early 2017, opting instead for a role as work rider to Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby at Moulton Paddocks in Newmarket.

Joe Mercer Joseph ‘Smokin’ Joe’ Mercer – his nickname derives from the pipe he habitually smokes – began his riding career in 1947, as a 13-year-old, apprenticed to Major Fred Sneyd at East Manton Stables in Sparsholt, near Wantage, Berkshire. Indeed, Mercer was Champion Apprentice in 1952 and 1953 and, in the latter season, won his first Classic, the Oaks, on Ambiguity, trained by R.J. ‘Jack’ Colling. Colling immediately offered Mercer a retainer at West Isley Stables, near Newbury, where he remained until 1976, with Colling until his retirement in 1962 and subsequently with his successor, William Richard “Dick” Hern.


However, the day after finishing second in the 1976 Derby on doubtful stayer Relkino, Mercer was informed, by means of a prepared statement read by the Queen’s racing manager, Lord Porchester, in the Epson Press Office, that he would be replaced as stable jockey at West Isley by Willie Carson at the end of the season. Mercer was subsequently offered a job as stable jockey to Ian Balding, but opted instead to become first jockey to Henry Cecil, who was taking over Warren Place, Newmarket following the retirement of his father-in-law, Noel Murless.


The Cecil-Mercer partnership flourished, with Mercer riding 102 winners in 1977 – the first time he had ridden over a hundred winners in a season since 1965 – and 114 winners in 1978. However, the best was yet to come, because Cecil would be instrumental in helping Mercer achieve what famed racing correspondent Richard Baerlain, at that time with the Guardian, described as the “wonderful feat” of becoming Champion Jockey for the first, and only, time at the age of 45.


In 1979, Cecil and Mercer won their first Classic with One In A Million in the 1,000 Guineas and although Kris failed by half a length to overhaul Tap On Wood, ridden by Steve Cauthen, in the 2,000 Guineas, he otherwise dominated the mile division, winning the St. James’s Palace Stakes, the Sussex Stakes and the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, to name but three high-profile races. Other notable victories that season included Lyphard’s Wish in the Dante Stakes at York, Connaught Bridge in the Nassau Stakes, Hello Gorgeous in the Royal Lodge Stakes and the Futurity. All in all, Mercer clocked up 164 winners in 1979, beating reigning Champion Jockey Willie Carson by 24.

Kevin Darley Nowadays, Kevin Darley is best known as the Northern Representative of Qatar Bloodstock and Pearl Bloodstock, which represent the bloodstock interests of the Royal Family of Qatar. Nevertheless, in his younger days, as an apprentice under the tutelage of Reg Hollinshead at Upper Longdon, near Lichfield, Staffordshire, he rode his first winner, Dust Up, at Haydock on his seventeenth birthday in 1977. A year later, as an 18-year-old, Darley became Champion Apprentice with 71 winners.


Hollinshead was famed for his ‘production line’ of future top jockeys and, true to form, in 2000, Darley became the first jockey based in the North of England since Elijah Wheatley in 1905 to win the jockeys’ title. His title-winning season, in which he rode 155 winners in Britain, was not, in fact, the most successful of his 31-year career as a jockey. The following season, 2001, he actually rode 161 winners, from fewer rides than in 2000, but came up just five short of the 166 winners ridden by Kieren Fallon.


Nevertheless, Champion Jockey he was, winning 14 races at Listed or Pattern level on British soil, including the Sprint Cup at Haydock on Pipalong, trained by Tim Easterby, and the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot on Observatory, trained by John Gosden. Other high-profile victories included Bay Of Islands, trained by Dave Morris, in the Northumberland Plate, a.k.a. the ‘Pitmen’s Derby’, at Newcastle – one of the most valuable races of its kind in the world – and Dim Sums, trained by David Barron, in the Two-Year-Old Trophy at Redcar.


Darley was Champion Jockey just once but, when he retired in 2007, he had ridden over 2,500 winners worldwide, including 26 at the highest level, and over a hundred winners in Britain in 11 of the 13 seasons between 1993 and 2005 inclusive.