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  • Writer's pictureJo O'Neill

A Lockdown interview with Barry Geraghty

Updated: Sep 1, 2020

Prior to the announcement of his retirement in July 2020, the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown had given top jockey Barry Geraghty, 40, a hint of what was to come. For jump racing, it was another of the old guard to step down.

Geraghty was the best; fiercely competitive in all the big races for twenty years. He recorded his first winner in January 1994 and reached 1000 Irish winners at Cork on 28th April 2012. He retired on the total of 1875, Irish and UK winners combined and fourth on the list of all-time winners. His total of winners at the Festival is 43, only bettered by Ruby Walsh, including five Champion Chases, two World Hurdles, two Gold Cups and four Champion Hurdles. He won the Grand National in 2003 on Monty’s Pass and the Irish one in 2014. There were also two consecutive King Georges. In fact, the big winners he rode in the UK were nearly always duplicated over in Ireland, often doubling and trebling up the winning tallies of here. He won five Punchestown Gold Cups and two Champion Hurdles there, and he was Irish Champion Jockey twice.

He shared a great partnership with Nicky Henderson, winning on Bobs Worth at three consecutive Festivals, culminating in the Gold Cup in 2013. There were wins with Simonsig, the first of Sprinter Scare’s Champion Chases in 2013 and a first Champion Hurdle on Punjabi. After AP McCoy retired in 2015, Geraghty took over the No 1 jockey for JP McManus, who gave him many unforgettable days and the memorable Festival of 2020. They shared five winners, including, unbeknown at the time, what was to be Geraghty’s final win, Saint Roi in the County Hurdle. This was in fact his last ride. Yet, it was his earlier years on Moscow Flyer and Kicking King that paved the way to a brilliantly successful career.

Barry and his wife Paula, who was originally from ‘down south in Kerry’, live in Skryne, County Meath, about five miles from Fairyhouse Racecourse. They have daughters Síofra (14) and Órla (9) and son Rían who is 4 (and a very important half). They have a Labrador called Millie, a Jack Russell called Issy and ponies Robbie and Honey. During lockdown, the recent additions to the family were lambs called Junior, Disney and Primrose together with a calf called Daisy!

Winning the Irish Grand National on Shutthefrontdoor – photo Fairyhouse Racecourse.
Photo Fairyhouse Racecourse

Which were your favourite racecourses in Ireland and the UK?

My favourite tracks in Ireland are my local ones: Fairyhouse for the great atmosphere at its Winter and Easter Festivals, and Navan which is a really stiff track with a big chase course as there is no hiding place around there and the best horse usually wins. In the UK, Cheltenham is where you want to win more than everywhere else; and Ascot, like Navan the cream usually comes to the top.

What was your favourite meeting of the season?

I've been very lucky to have ridden many big winners, especially at the Cheltenham Festival, but for me the Grand National is the Holy Grail of National Hunt racing; it's known all over the world.

What was your favourite big winner and your favourite horse?

Moscow Flyer and Sprinter Sacre were head and shoulders above their opposition in their prime and they both took me on amazing journeys, but Bobs Worth is like a pet to me. Having owned him as a youngster, he always had a lovely gentle personality, you could put a baby up on him. He, also, had a brilliant career.

What was the best advice you were given?

The best advice I've ever been given is to ‘take your time’, whether that's in life or in racing, you should never make a rushed decision.

What is the best advice you can give?

In a race, it's always better to base a decision on previous experience or on something you have thought about and or visualised.

What was your ideal day off in a busy season?

A day at home with our family just messing about or catching up on what everyone has been doing.

How do you best describe your character?!

I have always been a glass half full to overflowing.... David Casey said one year at Cheltenham that if I was going out on a rocking horse, I'd fancy it!

What is your favourite music?

My taste in music varies from Mumford & Sons to the Rolling Stones, ACDC to The Pogues and The Dubliners.

What is your favourite food/drink?

I love a good curry and a glass of red wine.

How did you fill the weeks of lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic?

I've been busy at home with Paula and the kids between home schooling, football, riding ponies etc. I've also got a good few young horses that were doing some light work in the Spring but are now out to grass. There hasn't been much time to get bored.

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