Gibson pays tribute to Mark Birch

Former jockey Dale Gibson has spoken of his admiration for Mark Birch, who died on Wednesday aged 67.

Jockeys Tony Culhane, Dale Gibson and Billy Newnes ahead of the Clipper Logistics Leger Legends Classified Stakes at Doncaster

Birch, remembered chiefly for his association with the great Sea Pigeon, was a stalwart on the northern racing scene for many years.

Gibson, now executive racing director for the Professional Jockeys Association, said: "He was 67 years of age and what a feller he was.

"He was consistent throughout his career, nearly all of it in the north, where he was leading rider on seven occasions.

"There was a golden period in the 1980s, starting in '81, when he won the Ebor and Northumberland Plate, and along came Sea Pigeon.

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"Mark was so reliable."

Birch also played a key role in Gibson getting the job as Mick Easterby's stable jockey, which he held until his retirement.

"Mark was coming towards the end of his career in 1994 when I moved north," Gibson told At The Races.

"I had a particularly successful season for the late Peter Calver but the following year Mark took over from me, which always perplexed me, but that's life.

"Mark always remembered that, thinking I was hard done by, then he got me the job with Mick Easterby in the spring of 1996.

"He told me how to work with Mick and it worked as we never had a bad word."

Gibson added that jockeys at Thursday's sole domestic Flat meeting at Chelmsford would wear black armbands in honour of Birch.

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