Shergar’s jockey Walter Swinburn dies aged 55

Swinburn won Epsom Derby three times and The Arc once

Walter Swinburn and Shergar win the Epsom Derby by 10 lengths in 1981. Photo: Bob Martin/Allsport/Getty Images

Walter Swinburn and Shergar win the Epsom Derby by 10 lengths in 1981. Photo: Bob Martin/Allsport/Getty Images

 

 Irish jockey Walter Swinburn, who burst to fame when riding Shergar to Derby success in 1981, has died. He was 55.

 Swinburn won the Epsom Derby on three occasions in all - and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on All Along in 1983 - but he will forever be associated with the legendary Shergar.

 The Aga Khan owned horse was the widest margin Epsom Derby winner ever when landing racing’s ‘blue-riband’ by ten lengths despite being eased down by Swinburn in the closing stages.

 The rider, whose cherubic features, earned him the nickname ‘Choirboy,’ also won the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes on Shergar.

 It helped propel Swinburn, a talented rugby player in his youth when studying at Rockwell College in Co Tipperary, to international acclaim as one of the top big-race riders during the 1980s and 1990s.

 Swinburn’s father, Wally, was a champion jockey in Ireland when employed by Dermot Weld who later engaged Swinburn Jnr to secure a memorable Cesarewitch success on the subsequent Melbourne Cup winner Vintage Crop in 1992.

 Plagued by weight trouble throughout most of his riding career, Swinburn also overcame near-fatal injuries sustained in a fall in Hong Kong in 1996. He was left in a coma for four days.

 He overcame those injuries to ride at the top level again before eventually retiring from the saddle in the year 2000. Swinburn subsequently saddled over 250 winners as a trainer before handing in his licence five years ago.

Dermot Weld has paid tribute to Swinburn, describing him as a “world class jockey and an exceptionally nice person.”

He said: “It is tragic news and my deepest sympathies go to his parents, Wally and Doreen, and his brother, Michael.

“Walter won the English Cesarewitch for me on Vintage Crop and also the English Lincoln on a filly called Saving Mercy. His father rode for me for years and was champion jockey here. It is tragic news. Walter was a world class jockey and an exceptionally nice person.”

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