Champion jockey Mercer dies at 86
Joe Mercer, the legendary rider who was crowned champion jockey in 1979 and associated with Brigadier Gerard throughout his career, died on May 17 at the age of 86.
Mercer was also memorably involved in the 1975 epic King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes (G1) between Grundy and Bustino, finishing second.
A prolific jockey who recorded his first success in 1950, Mercer went on to ride 2,810 winners in 36 seasons in Britain and captured eight British classics, including the Two Thousand Guineas in 1971 over Brigadier Gerard, his horse of a lifetime. life.
He also won the King George over champion Dick Hern, while he had stable jockey spells for that trainer, Sir Henry Cecil and Peter Walwyn.
Apprentice champion in 1953, Mercer teamed up with his last winner in 1985 after a magnificent career and was named OBE in 1980 for his services to the sport.
Bruce Raymond, a great friend and contemporary of Mercer, was one of the first to pay tribute to him.
“He was my best friend and he called me every Saturday at 9 am. He was always very punctual throughout his life and when he rode he was the first to put on his cap, the first to go. the weighing room, first in the door, and often first at home, ”he said.
“He was not only a great jockey but an even nicer man and he even found a cool side in not very nice people. I guess he was best known for being associated with Brigadier Gerard but I remember beating him in City and Suburban Handicap at Epsom when I was an apprentice, it was a great day.
“When he was directing for Sheikh Maktoum, he appointed me the highly regarded second jockey of Pat Eddery and later Walter Swinburn, and after I fell in Germany and broke my neck in 1996, he offered me a job for help him.
“When Joe retired he put me on the job and I’ve worked in a similar role since, which is now 25 years. I’m sorry he left but I’m glad he went quickly because he hasn’t been sick very well. “
Jimmy Lindley, who rode alongside Mercer and later became a BBC racing expert, said: “It’s so unexpected that I was talking to Joe only yesterday and we had arranged to meet up for a coffee Thursday When I heard the news this morning I couldn’t believe it.
“He was a great little boy who had a wonderful life and was a very talented man. We started racing life together at 13 years old. Joe started at Major Sneyd when I was there and I was remember it was the bad winter of 1947. We grew up and rode together as seven pound claimants and went all the way.
“Throughout his life he has been a great ambassador for the game and has done everything right on horseback. It was natural. Its golden age was for Jack Colling and Dick Hern. I’ll never forget when he won the Oaks over Ambiguity in 1953. He was just a boy back then, but he rode her with perfection and like an old man.
Lester Piggott, another golden generation of jockeys born in the mid 1930s, said: “Joe was a top notch person and was straight down the line.”
“ One of the best jockeys out there ”
Philip Robinson, who joined the weigh room in the late 1970s when Mercer was in his pump, said: “He was one of the best jockeys out there. He was beautifully balanced and rode great horses.
“He was also one of the nicest people in the weigh room and was always there for the younger jockeys if they needed any advice. We called him “Uncle Joe” and you could always count on him. No matter what his occupation, he always had time for you. “
Champion coach John Gosden, whose father Towser trained in Lewes, Sussex, said: “I first met Joe when he was 6 and he came to Lewes to work with Stan. Clayton and Jimmy Lindley.
“He was the most wonderful jockey with beautiful hands on a horse. He was a most accomplished rider, just like his brother Manny. ‘Smokin Joe’, as we called him, had a wonderful sense of humor and knew the square root of everything. “
Born in Bradford, Mercer apprenticed near Lambourn with Fred Sneyd and made his first tour in 1948, while his first notable winner came four years later thanks to Polar Jest in the Spring Cup in Newbury.
His classic winner came in 1953 aboard Ambiguity in the Oaks, while he also landed the One Thousand Guineas (G1) in 1974 on the Queen’s Highclere, a filly he also led to victory in the Prix de Diane (French Oaks, G1). .
Mercer triumphed that year at St. Leger (G1) over Bustino, which he was also on board when the duo finished second behind Grundy in 1975 in a thrilling King George, called the race of the century by many.
Brigadier Gerard, who won 17 of his 18 starts, was by far the best horse he has ridden and they had many wonderful times including successes in the St. James Palace Stakes, Eclipse, Sussex Stakes , Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and the Champion. Challenges.
The dazzling dismissal of the brigadier of the future hero of the Derby and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe Mill Reef in the Two Thousand Guineas has helped to seal his place – and that of Mercer – in racing folklore; no flat racer was rated better when in 2005 the Racing Post produced a book on the 100 most popular horses to race in Britain and Ireland.
In it, Mercer said of his great equine ally: “He was a weird horse with tremendous enthusiasm and speed and the class to win beyond his distance. never thought of getting beaten. “