Tipperary-born Jamie Spencer has the distinction of having been Champion Jockey on both sides of the Irish Sea. Indeed, despite being a relative latecomer to racing, Spencer quickly proved himself a naturally gifted horseman with a quiet, but highly effective, riding style.
In 1998, while still apprenticed to Liam Browne at the Curragh, Co. Kildare, and a month shy of his eighteenth birthday, he rode Tarascon, trained by Tommy Stack, to victory in the Irish 1,000 Guineas, thereby becoming the youngest jockey ever to win a Classic. The following year, Spencer rode 46 winners to become Champion Apprentice in Ireland and, five years later, after replacing Mick Kinane as stable jockey to Aidan O’Brien at Ballydoyle, became Champion Jockey in Ireland with 93 winners.
After a less-than-stellar year, which included the disqualification of Arlington Million winner, Powerscourt, for interference, his appointment with the perennial Champion Trainer in Ireland lasted only until 2005, when he was replaced as stable jockey by Kieren Fallon. Undaunted, Spencer moved to Britain and joined Luca Cumani in Newmarket, where his riding career continued to flourish. In fact, in his debut season in his adopted country, he racked up 180 winners and over £2.3 million in prize money to become Champion Jockey at his first attempt.
By the end of June, he’d already won nine Listed or Pattern races on both sides of the Irish Sea, including the Greenham Stakes at Newbury, the Classic Trial at Sandown, the Duke of York Stakes at York and the Albany Stakes at Royal Ascot. The second half of the season was equally productive, with ten more Listed or Pattern race victories in Britain, including Group 1 wins on Goodricke, trained by David Loder, in the Sprint Cup at Haydock and David Junior, trained by Brian Meehan, in the Champion Stakes at Ascot.
Spencer was Champion Jockey again, at least jointly, in 2007. However, on that occasion, despite riding 190 winners – the average for the previous decade, which included his own previous title-winning year, was 182 winners – he had to wait until the very last race of the season to draw level with Seb Sanders in the race for the jockeys’ title. Even so, Spencer described the dead-heat as ‘the best result that could have happened for racing’. Aside from his final win on Inchnadamph, who surged clear in the closing stages to win by 8 lengths, his seasonal highlights also included a couple of ‘textbook’ Spencer rides, one on Red Evie in the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury and another on Zidane in the Stewards’ Cup at Goodwood.