To say Paul Carberry has had a colourful career is a massive understatement.
Supremely talented, he won just about every jump race worth winning in Ireland plus a host in the UK, including 14 at the Cheltenham Festival and the Grand National.
He celebrated winning the world’s greatest steeplechase on Bobbyjo for his father Tommy in 1999 in his own inimitable style by swinging off a beam to dismount in the old winner’s enclosure.
It was followed by a party to end all parties in Liverpool’s Adelphi Hotel that went well into the small hours.
Occasionally his antics got him into trouble though, with two prime examples. In 2006, he was sentenced to two months in jail for allegedly setting fire to a newspaper on a flight from Malaga to Dublin.
Three years later, Carberry was suspended for 30 days by the Referrals Committee of the Turf Club after he failed an alcohol breath test.
On the track, he had no peers. His often employed waiting tactics which were invariably supremely executed, much to the dismay of fellow riders.
They nicknamed him ‘Alice’ as he used to warn his rivals he was about to pounce by singing ‘Living Next Door To Alice’ as he crept up to the leaders before cruising past on the way to another victory.
Carberry was born to be a jockey, hailing from a legendary racing family. His father was a former top jockey and leading trainer while his sister Nina and brother Phillip are both successful jockeys.
Carberry was a product of the Jim Bolger academy, responsible for many other top riders including Tony McCoy. He opened his account on Petronelli in 1990 while his first of 14 victories at the Cheltenham Festival came on Rhythm Section in the Champion Bumper in 1993.
He was called on by the best trainers in the business on both sides of the Irish Sea, including Willie Mullins, Dermot Weld, Dessie Hughes, Charles Byrnes, Gordon Elliott, Philip Hobbs, Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson.
But of all the trainers Carberry has ridden for, it will be his partnership with Noel Meade that will be best remembered.
When they teamed up to win the 1995 Drinmore Novice Chase with Johnny Setaside, who could have foreseen their association would last the best part of 20 years?
Their partnership featured stars such as Go Native, Sausalito Bay, Watson Lake, Harbour Pilot, Pandorama, Muirhead and most memorably Harchibald.
Extremely talented but quirky, Harchibald tested even a jockey of Carberry’s genius to the limit as he was a hold-up performer who had a mind of his own.
Though he won five Grade Ones, it was his narrow defeat in the 2005 Champion Hurdle for which Harchibald is most renowned.
Carberry held on to his mount as long as even he dare, but Hardy Eustace had more resolve and won by a neck with Brave Inca another neck away in third in an epic Cheltenham finish.
British racing fans were reminded of Carberry’s talents in January 2013 when he lifted the Coral Welsh National at Chepstow on Monbeg Dude, beating McCoy close to the line after a classic ride.
Unfortunately, the downside of being a jump jockey is that injuries get in the way. Like most riders, he broke nearly every bone in his body in pursuit of winners.
It was his latest injury, a broken leg sustained at Listowel last September that proved stubborn to heal well enough and quick enough to enable Carberry to carry on.
At the age of 42 he has reluctantly called time on his career. It was fun all the way and thankfully he has come out the other side just about in one piece.
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