THERE is little chance of Barry Geraghty being fazed by the pressure of expectation after he was handed the responsibility of succeeding racing record-breaker AP McCoy as retained rider to legendary owner JP McManus.
Now 35, Geraghty has already ridden the iconic green and gold silks to big race glory– most notably when partnering Jezki and More Of That to victories in the Stan James Champion Hurdle and Ladbrokes World Hurdle at the 2014 Cheltenham Festival after McCoy chose, to his continuing chagrin, to ride supposedly more fancied horses on both occasions.
Geraghty is vastly experienced on both sides of the Irish Sea thanks to his seven-year association with Nicky Henderson and superstar horses like Sprinter Sacre. His big race record is more than comparable to that of McCoy who retired from the saddle in April after becoming champion jockey for a 20th successive year.
There is a third reason why the shrewd McManus opted for Geraghty. This appointment spares the possibility of an unfortunate young rider rich on promise being appointed to the role, being billed as the ‘new McCoy’ and then failing to live up to the hype. It is a realisation that the recently retired champion was a one-off whose like will never be seen again, and any comparisons are both invidious and invalid.
On the injury sidelines since suffering a broken shinbone in March, the likable Geraghty – whose big race successes include a Grand National aboard Monty’s Pass and Gold Cup glory aboard both Kicking King and Bobs Worth – will split his time between England and Ireland where his young family live.
He has a reputation for being his own man and this opportunity has arisen at the right time in his career. Henderson no longer has the brilliant horses that saw him become champion trainer in 2012-13, breaking the stranglehold of Paul Nicholls.
Yet Geraghty will not be severing his links completely with the Seven Barrows stable – Henderson is still on the McManus roster of trainers and has high hopes that the top class hurdler My Tent Or Yours can make a successful comeback from injury.
“It’s a great job to get. I met up with JP last week and we discussed it. It fits in really well,” said Geraghty whose 33 career wins at the Cheltenham Festival are already two more than the total accrued by McCoy.
“Obviously I’ve done seven years riding for Nicky and it’s been brilliant. We’ve had some great success, but there’s a lot of travel involved and a lot of time away. I have a young family here and I think it might be a better balance going forward, maybe doing two or three days in England and have more time at home. It works well on a personal level. It definitely suits well, but it wasn’t a decision I could take lightly. I’d hope to ride a good few for Nicky when I’m not required for JP when I’m in England.
“We’re all in it for the big days. It’s nice to be riding winners any day of the week, but the big days really do count for an awful lot.
“Riding two winners at Cheltenham on Jezki and More Of That was brilliant, so I’ve been very fortunate to have ridden some great winners for JP over the years. I had my second Festival winner on Youlneverwalkalone in 2003. I’ve been lucky to ride some nice horses for him over the years.”
Geraghty named some of the key horses he is excited at teaming up with in his first season wearing the famous gold and green silks.
“It will be interesting to see how My Tent Or Yours is after having missed a season. He was only touched off by Jezki in the Champion Hurdle, so if gets back to that he should be a big player,” he said.
“Shutthefrontdoor won the Irish Grand National and ran well in the English Grand National. He’s a horse for the future.
“Kitten Rock was impressive during the season and he should make a nice chaser.”
Henderson is unlikely to appoint a stable jockey in the immediate future – he will still try to utilise Geraghty’s services where possible, but Malton-born Andrew Tinkler – who has worked at Seven Barrows for more than a decade – has proven ability and was victorious at this year’s Cheltenham Festival aboard Call The Cops.
However, the aforementioned McCoy has no doubts that Geraghty will be successful in his new role. “You want to give yourselves the best possible chance of winning and having someone like Barry on your side gives you that,” said the champion.
“His record speaks for itself and you don’t ride the big winners he’s had without being top drawer in every department.
“He’s got lots of experience, is good with people and there is a lot of class about him. Wearing the green and gold colours is the best job in jump racing and one very hard not to be interested in. There’s nothing else like it.”