NOEL Fehily admits he will be feeling emotional at Newbury as the curtain comes down on his celebrated career with three rides today.
Widely regarded as one of the best horsemen of his generation, recognition came fairly late in the 43-year-old’s injury-hit career which eventually accrued over 1,000 winners.
The past decade has undoubtedly been fruitful for County Cork-born Fehily, who began life in Britain riding for Charlie Mann – for whom he had his first winner, Ivy Boy, in 1998. He also rode his first Grade One winner for Mann, on Air Force One at Punchestown.
It was deputising for an injured Ruby Walsh on the likes of Master Minded that launched him into the big time, though, and secured him the job of riding for owner Jared Sullivan, in whose colours he won the 2013 and 2014 King George VI Chase on Silviniaco Conti.
In 2017, Fehily rode Buveur D’Air to win the Champion Hurdle then, 24 hours later, he was on his old favourite Special Tiara, who was successful in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
He came within a whisker of winning the three biggest prizes at the meeting when finishing second in the Gold Cup on Minella Rocco.
I shall enjoy the day, but it’s definitely going to be an emotional occasion as well. Riding is all I have ever done and all I have ever known.Noel Fehily
Fehily has been suffering with his health this season, having had complications from appendix surgery in January that saw him rushed back into hospital.
He announced his intention to retire after winning at last week’s Cheltenham Festival aboard Eglantine Du Seuil. He was then afforded a guard of honour by jockeys before his final Festival race.
Fehily said: “I shall enjoy the day, but it’s definitely going to be an emotional occasion as well. Riding is all I have ever done and all I have ever known.”
Asked about the reception he has had since announcing his intention to retire, Fehily said: “It has been absolutely overwhelming, from people I’ve never spoken to – in racing and not in racing. It has been amazing.
“I had a message from William Haggas saying, ‘this is William Haggas, I don’t know if you know me, I train a few Flat horses in Newmarket’ – it is nice that people like that have taken time to message me and wish me well.”
In recent seasons he has been based with Harry Fry, who was credited with the training of Fehily’s win on Rock On Ruby in the 2012 Champion Hurdle, while he was assistant to Paul Nicholls.
Fry said: “He has been a huge part of helping us getting to the point we are at. He will be irreplaceable. It is not just about his input as a jockey, but his fabulous input into plans to make sure the horses are running in the right races. He is a great horseman. After what he went through with his health, it was great for him to ride a winner at the Festival and announce his retirement plans on his own terms.”
Fry is hoping to send Fehily out on a winner with the unbeaten Get In The Queue. “Hopefully we will be able to pull it off (for Noel), but I’ve never been under pressure like it,” said the trainer.
Fehily also rides Out Of This World for Fry and Prabeni for the aforementioned Mann.