Tributes paid on death of former British champion jockey Joe Mercer
Yorkshireman enjoyed Classic success in Ireland in the Derby and 2,000 Guineas
English jockey Joe Mercer won the 1959 Irish Derby and the 1973 Irish 2,000 Guineas. Photograph: Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Tributes have been paid to the former British champion jockey Joe Mercer who has died aged 86.
Mercer, who famously rode one of the all-time great champions Brigadier Gerard, was a high-profile rider over a number of decades and was crowned champion jockey in Britain in 1979.
He was also involved in a renowned 1975 King George battle – dubbed the race of the century – when finishing runner-up to Grundy on Bustino. Mercer retired in 1985.
The Yorkshire-born rider, popularly known as ‘Smokin’ Joe,’ enjoyed Classic success at the Curragh including in the 1959 Irish Derby on Fidalgo.
He was also successful in the 1973 Irish 2,000 Guineas on board the Dick Hern-trained Sharp Edge.
Willie Carson, who replaced Mercer as Hern’s stable jockey in 1976, said his friend’s passing was “the end of an era” and described him as a “real stylist in the saddle”.
Ahead of this weekend’s ‘Guineas’ festival at the Curragh the shape of Ireland’s first Classics of the year will become more clear after Tuesday’s vital forfeit stage.
Pandemic restrictions contributed to both of last year’s postponed Guineas being all-domestic contests.
However, bookmakers have Richard Hannon’s Chindit and the Godolphin hope La Barrosa prominent in ante-post lists for Saturday’s Tattersalls 2,000 Guineas.
“Protocols allow now for foreign grooms to travel with their horses and we have full arrangements in place. We are expecting a good number of English runners over the weekend,” said the Curragh’s chief executive Pat Keogh.
The Jane Chapple-Hyam-trained Saffron Beach, runner-up to Mother Earth at Newmarket two weeks ago, is an intended starter in Sunday’s 1,000 Guineas.
Soft ground conditions shouldn’t be an issue for Saffron Beach but they could result in Miss Amulet missing out on another Classic date.
Local trainer Ken Condon took his Lowther winner out of Sunday’s French Guineas due to the going and is keeping fingers crossed the Curragh going doesn’t get too soft either.
“We’re happy with our decision not to run her on what we would call heavy ground. It wouldn’t have been the right thing by her so we’ll have to see how this week goes,” Condon said on Monday.
“We’re not going to get our ideal conditions. She’s a good ground horse and we won’t have that. We might be able to run her on the easy side of good, or good to yielding,” he added.