Racing pays tribute to Swinburn

Sir Michael Stoute hailed Walter Swinburn as a "naturally gifted rider with a God-given talent" after the former jockey and trainer died at the age of 55.

Walter Swinburn: Died on Monday, aged 55

Forever associated with Stoute's extraordinary 1981 Derby winner Shergar, Swinburn suffered with weight issues throughout a glittering career in the saddle.

Yet despite his problems, he will always be remembered as a brilliant jockey and a man for the big occasion.

"He was always totally unfazed," Stoute told At The Races.

"I'd drive him to the races and he slept the whole way there. He had a remarkable temperament for the big day.

"He was just a naturally gifted rider with a God-given talent. The big days turned him on.

"We had a great relationship. Of course there were many times when he drove me absolutely mad, but he just had this unique talent.

"We loved him riding the horses and he had a great relationship with the staff over a long period.

"He always had to work very hard on his weight.

"There was a vulnerability, but that maybe comes when you have as much talent as he did."

Swinburn suffered an awful fall at Sha Tin racecourse in 1996 and was placed in a coma for four days after he sustained severe head and chest injuries.

But he returned to action within six months, and at the end of the year won the Breeders' Cup Turf on the Stoute-trained Pilsudski.

The trainer added: "I think the win on Pilsudski gave him a great deal of satisfaction, that was a great day for us at Woodbine."

Swinburn enjoyed many fine days in the colours of Cheveley Park Stud, whose managing director Chris Richardson said: "I am shocked at the news.

"Walter was an integral part for David and Patricia Thompson's Cheveley Park Stud success in the 1990s.

"Wonderful memories of Gay Gallanta and Exclusive's Group One successes, to name but two."

Sir Michael Stoute on Walter Swinburn "He was just a naturally gifted rider with a God-given talent. The big days turned him on. Of course there were many times when he drove me absolutely mad, but he just had this unique talent. He had a great relationship with the staff over a long period."
Sir Michael Stoute on Walter Swinburn

Leading French trainer Criquette Head-Maarek described Swinburn as "one of the greatest ever jockeys".

Head-Maarek and Swinburn developed a fruitful association in the 1990s, most notably with Hatoof, on whom the rider won the 1000 Guineas and the Champion Stakes at Newmarket.

The Chantilly handler said: "He was such a talented rider. He had really soft hands and had fantastic judgement during races.

"Walter was a great boy and it is such a young age that he has died. When you like someone, you never want them to leave. In my opinion, I think he was one of the greatest ever jockeys."

Nicknamed the 'Choirboy', he partnered Shergar to Derby glory at the age of 19 – one of three winners for Swinburn in the Epsom Classic alongside Shahrastani (1986) and Lammtarra (1995).

Swinburn also won the 1983 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe on the filly All Along, trained by Patrick Biancone.

In addition to Hatoof in 1992, he landed the 1000 Guineas with Musical Bliss (1989) and Sayyedati (1993), with his 2000 Guineas success coming through Doyoun (1988).

Shergar and Swinburn went on to claim the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot in their Derby-winning year, with the jockey twice tasting success in the Irish Derby with Shareef Dancer (1983) and Shahrastani (1986).

In 1987, he again teamed up with Stoute on the biggest stage to claim the Oaks aboard Unite.

Swinburn, who retired from the saddle in 2000, and Willie Carson were great rivals during a golden age of gifted horsemen.

The former five-time champion jockey also highlighted Swinburn's temperament as being one of his greatest attributes.

Carson said: "He rode a Derby winner before I even rode a winner at the same age. Isn't that incredible?

"He got more excitement out of the big days than he did on the little days.

"He was as cool as cool could be."

Reigning champion jockey Jim Crowley was in awe of Swinburn's finesse in the saddle.

He told Sky Sports News: "He was a great guy. He was a gifted rider with beautiful hands.

"He probably found it very easy and he was beautiful to watch."

Swinburn took over the training licence from his father-in-law, Peter Harris, in November 2004 and sent out over 260 winners from his Hertfordshire base before he retired in October 2011 due to commercial reasons.

Read More at Sporting Life

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