Barry Geraghty, one of the most successful jump jockeys of the last 20 years, has announced his retirement. His tally of 43 Festivals winners, five of which came at his last Cheltenham in March shortly before the lockdown, is only bettered by Ruby Walsh.
With Walsh and Paul Carberry already retired, Geraghty joining them, Davy Russell just turned 41, Robbie Power not far behind them at 38, it is another reminder that perhaps the greatest era for Irish jump jockeys in the history of the sport is drawing to its close.
Geraghty’s first big winner in Britain was as a teenager on Miss Orchestra for Jessica Harrington, his long-term ally, in the 1998 Midlands Grand National. In 1999-00 he was champion jump jockey in Ireland for the first of two times.
In 2003, a few weeks after riding five winners at the Cheltenham Festival and earning his reputation as a man for the big occasion, he rode the Jimmy Mangan trained Monty’s Pass to victory in the Grand National, enjoying such a dream ride he described it as "like a schooling session".
He can rightly claim to have ridden two of the best two mile chasers of the current century in Moscow Flyer and Sprinter Sacre, he won the Gold Cup on Kicking King and Bobs Worth, who he had also sold as a young horse to Nicky Henderson and four Champion Hurdles on four different horses: Punjabi, Jezki, Buveur d’Air and Epatante.
A candidate for one of his finest rides was when Riverside Theatre, who was off the bridle after three fences, beat the AP McCoy-ridden Alberta’s Run in the 2012 Ryanair Chase.
You could divide up his career into riding mainly for three people: Jessica Harrington, Nicky Henderson, when he commuted the Irish Sea for eight seasons, and then the owner JP McManus. “They were all connected,” he pointed out. “Jessie introduced me to Nicky and they both trained for JP.”
A big thank you to my Family Friends and Everyone who has supported me over the last 24 years tonight I am happy to say I am announcing my retirement.... I’ve been blessed to have had a wonderful career and I’m looking to what the future holds....🎉🤩👍🏻 pic.twitter.com/UoD5HKfN3k— Barry Geraghty (@BarryJGeraghty) July 11, 2020
Reflecting on his career on Sunday, he said: “The highlight was Monty’s Pass in the Grand National. Isn’t it the most important and the one known around the world?
“Bobs Worth was a great success but the day he won the Gold Cup was the day after JT McNamara’s fall at Cheltenham and it was not a joyous occasion. It was tinged with sadness.”
He had more than his fair share of injuries and spent 18 months of the last five years on the sidelines having broken both legs and both arms.
“It’s a decision (retirement) that has grown on me,” he said. “I was well down the back nine. I was going to call it a day at Cheltenham but there was still a chance of Aintree going ahead and I didn’t want to miss that.
“Then I had time to reflect on it, had a little U-turn before coming back to my original decision. I’m very comfortable with it. It would be hard to improve on this year’s Cheltenham and I’ve had a great time for great people.”
He plans to dabble away with young stock but does not intend to "press hard on the throttle" for a while. “There’s not going to be a major adjustment on what I’ve being doing as a side-line,” he said. “We’ve got three kids so there’s plenty going on and I’ll get to do some of the normal things in life which a jockey can’t do.”
There will be speculation who will take from Geraghty in the green-and-gold silks of JP McManus, a position he held for five years after taking over from McCoy.
But Mark Walsh was already riding most of McManus’s horses in Ireland last season. I dare say that will not change while Aidan Coleman, who often filled in for Geraghty when he was injured, looks favourite to ride a few more of his British-based horses.