Nicky Henderson has paid tribute to retiring rider Jerry McGrath – who rode Beware The Bear to Ultima success at the Cheltenham Festival – and is very keen to keep him involved at Seven Barrows.
McGrath has been forced to hang up his saddle at the age of 31 as injuries he suffered in a fall from Vegas Blue during an all-weather jumpers’ bumper last year have failed to heal sufficiently.
He spent the majority of his career with Henderson, who provided the Irishman with both his Cheltenham Festival victories, on Une Artiste in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle in 2012 and Beware The Bear in the 2019.
“He’s been a very special man to us. He’s been at Seven Barrows a long time and he is part of the place – and we really want him to remain here,” said Henderson.
“We all feel desperately sorry for him and I know he wanted to go on for a bit longer, he wasn’t ready to retire just yet. It broke his heart not to be able to continue because he was very good at it.
“He is a wonderful horseman and the nicest guy you’ll ever come across. He’s such a team player. The owners loved him and some would specifically ask for him to ride their horses.
“Sandy and Caroline Orr loved him and he had a tremendous association with Theinval for them and he won at the Festival on Beware The Bear for George and Ann Barlow – that was a great day, it meant an awful lot to me and the Barlows, it was a first Festival winner for them.
“You got continuity from Jerry and they knew he would always make himself available for them.”
McGrath was around at a time Seven Barrows was flush with top jockeys but he more than held his own, according to Henderson.
“There was a time we had a great squad of riders. We had Jerry, Nico (De Boinville), David Bass and Tinks (Andrew Tinkler), with Barry (Geraghty) at the head of it,” said Henderson.
“There’s only two poor souls still here from then, but they’ve all gone on to have good careers.
“The great thing about Jerry is that he is already helping me enormously with the entries and he has already got a second career in the bloodstock world, he is absolutely fascinated by it all. I think he knows the pedigree of every horse in England!
“He’s got connections and friends all over the racing world that I hope will be supporting him in what he is going to do next.
“He’ll be doing lots of that but hopefully he’ll be staying on with our operation as well because he’ll be a big asset to us, watching work and schooling every day.
“I feel desperately sorry for him, he wasn’t going out on his own terms which is never easy, but he’s tailor-made for the bloodstock game and we wish him all the best – but he’s not going anywhere.”
Source : Sky Sports