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ENGLISH CAVALCADE-VII. Knights Of The Pigskin

Famous Jockeys Past And Present: Danny Maher's Untimely End: Freddie Fox Now A "J.P." '

(By "CAPTAIN X") Many people regard Danny Maher, one of the last American jockeys to ride over here, as the finest horseman we have known since the days of Archer. I do not agree. Mornington Cannon was extraordinarily good, and until the American "invasion" about 1900, headed by the irresistible Tod Sloan, "Moray" was the champion of England. & I ran into him some few years ago on Ostend racecourse, looking, I must admit, a trifle aldermanic, and not in the least like the slim, good-looking young fellow who was all the rage in the 'nineties. 5

T HAPPENED to be,with a friend who had been racing all his life—that is the point of the story —and took the liberty of introducing him to "Morny.** "Who did you say that chap was?" asked my companion as we went on our way. "Mornington Cannon," I replied. "Oh!" exclaimed the gentleman, who, on his own confession, had been backing horses for 35 years, "and who, pray, is Mornington Cannon?". . . Since Maher's day we have known quite a few more jockeys who didn't, or don't require to be told where the winning post is— Donoghue, Freddie Fox, Harry Wragg, and last, but by no means least, Gordon Richards. I would describe Maher as an extremely artistic rider, and the successes he achieved speak for themselves.

He arrived here shortly after the Stewards of the Jockey Club had cleared out a swarm of undesirables from the States, and was quick to understand that either he rode to English methods or not at all. You could account him a strikingly good judge of pace, always well away from the gate, and clever at skipping trouble. His record speaks for itself. Along with Frank Wootton, he dominated the jockeyship until 1913, when ill-health manifested itself. About 1915 his colleagues tried to get him riding again, and even went to the length of having a little race at Newmarket which he could hardly lose.

Lut there are other reasons to account for his success. He has no swollen head and never attempts to get off horses that can hardly win. He stands by his contracts and takes the rough with the smooth, confident in the knowledge -that pride goes before a fall. Why has Gordon never ridden a Derby winner? George Fordham, as good a jockey as Archer ever knew how to be, rode but one, Wootton, Carslabe, Frank Bullock, and many more high-grade horsemen never inscribed their names on that particular roll of fame. If the Derby had been run at Epsom, Gordon might have won on the King's horse, Big Game, but over the severe mile and a half of the Beacon Course at Newmarket, Big Game faltered in the last trying furlong out of the Dip. But Gordon's time will come. 5000 Winning Flags And now, for a few words on the subject about an English jockey of whom this country knows little or nothing. Sam Heapy is his name. Forty-odd years ago Sam was an apprentice in a Newmarket stable, with but little likelihood of ever getting to the front. Of an adventurous nature, he sought pastures new and went to Brussels. There he remained, on and off, ever since, first as jockey to Baron Frederick Brugmann, and later on as jockey-trainer. He is the only person in the world to hold such a license.

But all the old fire had gone; Danny was a sick man. He died at the age of 35 in 1916, with the consciousness that he had made much Turf history in his time. Artistry Of Freddie Fox When Maher and Woottbn were at the height of their fame, Freddie Fox-was establishing himself as a jockey in the first flight. Like Maher, he rode smoothly and with impeccable judgment, plus the addition of a handy weight and considerable strength. - Back in 1911 he won the One Thousand Guineas on Atmah for Mr. James de Rothschild, but no further Classics came his way until 1930, when he steered Diolite to victory in the Two Thousand Guineas for the General Electric millionaire, Sir Hugo Hirst. ... Nineteen years is a long time to wait; many jockeys would have given up before then. * But Freddie went serenely on his way, always smiling; always with, a good story to tell. He is easily the best ■raconteur.on.the Turf.

Once the tide began to turn, there was no stopping him. He won tne Derby next year on Cameronian, the StLeger on Firdaussi in 1932, and in 1935 the Two Thousand and Derby on , Bahrain. , But these were just episodes in the long string of successes which attended him at a time of life when most jockeys think of retiring.

The secret? Extraordinary fitness arid a lifelong belief in the olr adage of "early to bed, early to rise." ?In his.recent retirement he has notched another claim to fame by appointment as a Justice of the Peace for Berkshire. , That, at any rate, completely eclipses old John Osborne, the redoubtable North - Country jockey, known as "The Pusher." John never rose any higher than church-warden. Richards, of. course, has put all jockey's records in the shade, from the immortal Archer downward. He has now ridden close on three thousand winners, and win certainly ride another thousand before he finishes. , „ He beat the immortal "Tinman s figures of 268 wins in one season, and the day he equalled the record, at Hurst Park one raw November afternoon, an enthusiastic florist from Tottenham Court Road tried to present him with a bouquet by way of celebration. I don't know who was the more embarrassed —Gordon or the flabbergasted florist—when the. champion thrust the offering aside. A Pocket Hercules The champion packs abnormal strength into small compass. If you were to describe him as a pocket Hercules, you would not be far wrong. He-gets away from the gate like a flash and seldom is badly positioned towards the finish.

Over these forty years, fair-haired Sam has ridden considerably more than 3000 winners and trained more than 5000.

I don't say they are Ascot horses, but just fancy any English trainer hoisting 5000 winning flags!

I know him well. He is a firstclass jockey, and, in his prime, must have equalled anybody. Twice the Germans have destroyed his livelihood, and now he is back in England, again, well over 50 years of age, but ready and anxious to get back to that big stable he had to leave behind at Stockel. All the visitors to Ostend and Brussels races know his silver jacket and green spots. He trains and rides his own horses, and his wife attends to the clerical work. A unique character is Sam Heapy, someone who deserves considerably more space than I have at my command in the Cavalcade of the Champions. Those Were-The Days Going back again to the days when Maher and Wpotton were at the? top of the tree/there were quite a number of firsfrclass horsemen about. Certainly trainers never knew the difficulty of finding really capable jockeys, which is the experience just now. We had the two Griggs brothers, Walter and Willie, "Farmer" otherwise Billy, Higgs, Charlie Trigg ("Hell-fire Jack"), Elijah Wheatley, Otto Madden, Walter Earl, Jack Clark, "Snowy" Whalley, the two Huxley boys, and quite a few more. Both Griggs served their apprenticeship at Newmarket with famous old Robert Sherwood, of St. Gatien House, a hard from al 1 . accounts, even if he did improve on further acquaintance. Still, many of the old-fashioned schopl of trainers were like that. They appraised their horses higher than their apprentices.

Willie Griggs appears to have been quite an enterprising youth. When weighing a bare 4st he was put up by Sherwood in a race at Newmarket —Tod Sloan had been giving him a few wrinkles—and the diminutive one had the "distinction" of being reported to the Stewards for attempting to beat Mr. Loates away from the gate. "Mr." Loates, if you please! One is glad to record that wicked little Willie escaped with a good wigging. The "Hat Trick" Then came the day when Willie | aroused the ire of his master by] allegedly mishandling a horse on the ! Limekilns Sherwood said he was a damned young scoundrel, who would never make a jockey, etc., etc. Willie's reaction to this was to return to St. Gatien House and tell younger brother Walter that he was "finished with old Sherwood," and intended to back horses for a living

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Bibliographic details

ENGLISH CAVALCADE-VII. Knights Of The Pigskin, Auckland Star, Volume LXXV, Issue 226, 23 September 1944, Supplement

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1,429

ENGLISH CAVALCADE-VII. Knights Of The Pigskin Auckland Star, Volume LXXV, Issue 226, 23 September 1944, Supplement

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