Johnny Seagrave

JOCKEY Johnny Seagrave served his apprenticeship with trainers Billy Smallwood and Ernie Davey from 1947 to 1955 and rode his first winner at Lincoln in September 1948. It was 20 years later that he rode regularly decent horses for Rufus Beasley, Pat Rohan, and Bill Elsey.

In 1973, at the age of 39, he landed his first major retainer, with Paul Davey, one of millionaire David Robinson's private trainers at Newmarket.

Seagrave, a popular figure in the Malton racing community, returned to the North of England in 1975 and was badly injured in a fall in 1978. He resumed race-riding the following year but was forced into retirement in 1984 as a result of injuries sustained in another riding accident.

In the first 17 years of his career, he rode a total of 81 winners. In the last 19, he partnered 849. His best season was 76 in 1969.

His biggest successes came with Music Boy in the Gimcrack Stakes at York, Roman Warrior in the Ayr Gold Cup, and Princely Son in the Vernon Sprint. He finished second on Meadowville in the St Leger.

Retired trainer Jack Berry said: "Johnny Seagrave was a fearless horseman with the reputation that he would ride the most recalcitrant thoroughbreds. The cry 'Send For Seagrave' was often heard when safety-first jockeys refused unruly mounts.

"He was fearless and popular with fellow jockeys and the racegoing public. Johnny always made time for a chat. He was a gentleman in every sense of the description – simply a lovely lad and a credit to the sport.

"However, his association with racing finished on a rather sour note. He decided to attend a meeting as a spectator and he was grilled by a gateman who did not accept Johnny's identity. He did not go racing again. He should really have applied to the Jockey Club for an on-going badge and this would have gained him entrance to every track in the country. He failed to do so and did not go racing again.

"He was able to embark on a successful career in the greyhound racing sphere. Johnny bred and trained greyhounds who ran at a licensed track in Hull and in open events at other top-class venues."

John Morgan, the Yorkshire Evening Post's former racing editor, writes: "I was with Johnny the day he learned that his jockey career had come to a premature end. After one extremely painful fall, he was advised to undergo an examination by a Jockey Club appointed doctor.

"The only one available was at a Wetherby steeplechase meeting and Johnny was confident that he would by given a clean bill of health. However, he was warned by the physician that more falls could prove fatal and he should hang up his boots and saddle for good.

"The diagnosis was a bitter pill for the man who invariably bounced back from falls with his body and nerves intact."

Trainer Stanley "Snowy" Wainwright was Johnny's most ardent admirer and the pair represented a successful partnership with the highlight victory on Music Boy in the 1975 Gimcrack Stakes. It was an epic victory and Snowy still has a photograph of Johnny and Music Boy which he produces from his wallet at least a dozen times a week.

It was believed that Lester Piggott would ride Music Boy at York but he failed to impress Snowy in a previous race and he announced: "Lester will never ride for me again."

When the world-famous jockey was acquainted of the Yorkshire trainer's view, he responded with the immortal phrase: "I had better pack up then."

However, Snowy had the last laugh. Johnny rode a brilliant race to score on Music Boy and celebrations were both prolonged and in Snowy's words "unbridled".

The retired trainer's admiration of Johnny never faltered.

He said: "If Johnny had the right horse he rarely made a mistake. He was not only a great jockey but a chap with countless friends and admirers. He will be greatly missed not only by the racing brigade in Malton but by fans throughout sport. He was a gentleman first and foremost.

Retired champion jockey Edward Hide, who dominated the Northern jockeys' scene, was, at his zenith, the sixth most successful jockey in British racing history. He said: "Johnny was a determined jockey, widely admired for his tenacity and will to win. He was a great friend."

Edward has lost a regular golf companion. Malton has lost another great horseracing character. But the cry "Send For Seagrave" will never be forgotten.