When tasked with listing a top five of rides from a career lasting quarter of a century as a jockey, it’s a racing certainty that there will be a few glaring omissions. Also, the chances are that many of the best feats of horsemanship and persuasion, of winning when he shouldn’t have, occurred away from the bright lights. And then there are the great rides that weren’t winning ones.
But when I think of Barry Geraghty, the following are just some of the days that feature prominently.
Of the 27 races won by Moscow Flyer, Geraghty was on board for 25, including 13 Grade Ones, three Cheltenham Festival triumphs including two Champion Chases and a slew of victories at Punchestown, Aintree and Fairyhouse, among other venues.
It is the second Tingle Creek that is rated highest for the consensus was that the soon-to-be 11-year-old would not be quick enough to hold off the reigning champion two-mile chaser Azertyuiop, who took the honours at Cheltenham in March when Moscow Flyer unseated Geraghty, or Arkle Chase winner Well Chief.
Geraghty took the bull by the horns in front of one of Sandown’s biggest ever crowds of 16,300 and the Jessica Harrington-trained gelding answered every call from the front, testing the jumping and pace of the youngsters. They proved perfect tactics, skilfully executed on a brilliant horse.
They would confirm their superiority the following March but this was the day that secured Moscow Flyer’s legendary status and Geraghty’s role was decisive.
Geraghty was only 23 when he won the Aintree Grand National but it remains one of the highlights of a stellar career. Perfectly prepared in Conna by Jimmy Mangan, Monty’s Pass carried the hopes and cash of much of East Cork and beyond as bookies slashed his price from 40s to 16/1.
Whether the young Meath pilot felt the pressure, he exuded serenity of a gliding swan externally and clearly transmitted that to Monty’s Pass. Geraghty had Monty’s Pass out of danger in the van and the Montelimar gelding saved energy with his accurate jumping.
Despite travelling powerfully, Geraghty resisted the temptation to pass Gunner Welburn until approaching the penultimate fence, conscious of the testing run home. As it happened, Monty’s Pass had loads in the tank and sluiced home but it was a canny and nerveless piece of steering.
Owned by actor James Nesbitt, Riverside Theatre was 7/2 favourite but the eight-year-old was not a smooth conveyance on this day, proving laboured at the third and fifth obstacles. Having been chivvied along by Geraghty to race a bit more enthusiastically, Riverside Theatre made another bad error at the 13th, giving away ground and energy but Geraghty continued to keep his partner interested, and in contention.
Albertas Run had been sent to the front early on by AP McCoy and the duo had made the best of their way home. Riverside Theatre was under pressure from three out but Geraghty demanded a big one and got a response.
He allowed Nicky Henderson’s charge to pop the final two but was still a length and a half behind the last and at one point, half-way up the straight only third. Geraghty would not take no for an answer however, lifting Riverside Theatre to the front in a dramatic conclusion.
Not too often would a PU figure in jockey’s CV of fine feats but when Barry Geraghty pulled up Sprinter Sacre after the fifth fence, while still in contention, he may well have saved not just a breathtaking career, but a horse.
Sprinter Sacre was a glittering Champion Chase winner nine months earlier but his rider was not happy with the feel he was getting from his partner and quickly pulled him up. The empathy was rewarded when an irregular heartbeat was diagnosed, and once again, a remarkable two years and three months later, when they returned to be champions of the two-mile division once more.
Similar to Riverside Theatre in that he had to give Champ confidence, but different in that he looked too far out of his ground, particularly after pecking at the penultimate fence, with Allaho and Minella Indo well clear.
Champ was named after AP McCoy and the finish was similar to the Ulsterman’s on Wichita Lineman, Geraghty eliciting a big leap and then a pulsating finish, while the front two tired and idled respectively.
He knew, though we didn’t, that this would be his last Cheltenham and it was a fitting way to sign off, at the peak of his powers.