Harding calls it a day after riding 625 winners
EDEN-based jockey Brian Harding has called time on a successful 25-year riding career.
The 44-year-old rode 625 winners over the jumps — with his best season numerically coming in 2014-15 when he totalled 56. However, he had no luck in his final ride, at Perth, when sixth on Anywaythewindblows in the concluding bumper race at the Scottish track.
Fittingly the horse was trained by Greystoke-based Nicky Richards, for whom Harding has ridden for nearly a quarter of a century. The race was won by the Rose Dobbin-trained Plant Nine, in the hands of 7lb claimer Lorcan Murtagh, of Ivegill.
“I felt quite sad going out for my last ride. The fact he didn’t win didn’t bother me, just the fact that, after 25 years, it was the last time I would do it,” said Harding.
As a jockey, he will probably be best remembered for his victory on One Man in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in 1998.
Among his other big-race winners were The French Furze in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle in 2003 and Granit D’Estruval in the Irish Grand National the following year.
Born in County Cork, the son of a dairy farmer who broke in Dawn Run, Harding grew up in the same village as the legendary Champion Hurdle and Cheltenham Gold Cup-winning jockey Jonjo O’Neill — now a successful trainer.
Harding’s career began in pony racing, and he rode five winners on the Flat while he was an apprentice with Kevin Prendergast before moving to Greystoke in 1992.
Speaking to the Herald, he said: “I decided at the start of this season it would be my last after speaking with my girlfriend Kelly Gale, Nicky Richards and (agent) Richard Hale.
“I felt I could have gone another couple of seasons, but at the same time the last three years have been great. I am nearly 45 and I didn’t want to go on till I wasn’t getting any rides. It gave me a year to get used to the idea, but the last week was very difficult.”
Harding, who is already an accredited jockeys’ coach, said he was going to continue with coaching — something he hoped would “get bigger and better”.
He is also going to carry on breaking in young horses, which he has done every summer, but hopes to build on that and make it an all year round enterprise.
Harding advised any would-be jockeys to do everything they could to give themselves the best chance of making it in the profession — that way they would have no regrets.
Thanking everyone who has helped him along the way, he said: “I’ve been so lucky to do a job I would call a hobby for 25 years.”