Riding a racehorse around a track is one thing, but staying on it, especially in jumps racing, is another. We've looked at the most impressive flat/jumps victories during my lifetime, but now it's time to switch it up a bit and look at the most impressive jockey recoveries of the past 10 years. Some went on to win their races, whilst others did well to even stay on in the first place. Some are simply “gravity-defying”… literally! So buckle up, or should I say, secure your feet in them irons, as we assess some of the best jockey recoveries ever seen.
10. Ruby Walsh – Killultagh Vic (Leopardstown 2016)
What looked like it was going to be a smooth sailing success almost turned very sour very quickly for 12 times Irish champion jump jockey Ruby Walsh. Killultagh Vic had travelled through his race strongly, leading from the front and around 6L clear at halfway. He was well in command approaching the last, but a pitch on landing saw the horse's nose touch the floor before slithering across the grass and coming to a complete standstill. Walsh was left clinging on for dear life and what was a 6L lead now saw the horse in 3rd place and a jockey without his irons. Some fantastic horsemanship, though, got him going again against the rail and saw him make impressive headway to regain the lead approaching the line, taking the race by ¾ L. Echoing the words from the commentator, it looked like he would never recover from that, but he did, and what a win it was!
9. Aidan Coleman – Carrickboy (Wincanton 2011)
An experienced rider who has ridden some top horses for top trainers, and boy, did he need all of that experience when riding Carrickboy. Held up behind the leaders, it seemed like just another day at the office, until Fiftyonefiftyone made a mistake at the 8th, hampering Mud Monkey, which caused Carrickboy to clip heels and end up laying down on the turf. Coming to a complete standstill, Aidan somehow kept the partnership together and got his mount going again through a great show of balance and determination. The pair finished 3rd. Recovering from what could’ve been a very nasty incident is one thing, but completing the race is another. Not a win on paper, but a win compared to what could’ve been, from a jockey who has a catalogue of similar incidents.
8. Davy Russell – Vaxalco (Galway 2014)
Over to Ireland this time and to Galway, where Davy Russell put together a tremendously theatrical display. Despite a few mistakes early in the race, Vaxalco was travelling okay in a close-up 6th with 4 to jump. A terrible mistake at the 4th last, though, sent the jockey flying in what we can only describe as a ‘buckaroo moment’. Completely misjudging the flight of the hurdle and plunging through the top, Vaxalco sent Russell high into the air. Somehow, he kept hold of one rein, landing on the horse's back (admittedly the wrong way) and then hoisting himself upright into the saddle. Regaining his irons and momentum, he finished a creditable 4th, making eye-catching late headway after a mistake which, in reality, should’ve been the end of his race. A brilliant sit from a brilliant jockey!
7. Kevin Brouder – Forza Milan (Naas 2021)
Another clip from Ireland and another gravity-defying moment, this time for Kevin Brouder aboard Forza Milan. Forza Milan had jumped almost impeccably, waited with at the rear ready to mount a late challenge. From 2 out, though, he started to feel the pinch. Upon jumping the last, he almost lost Brouder, if not for a superb recovery. Similar to the Davy Russell incident, it was as if he’d pressed the eject button, with the horse bucking his jockey high into the air. After performing some acrobatics, Brouder landed back on the horse but again facing the wrong way. Despite almost falling from the right side of the horse and clinging on for dear life, he somehow regained his place upright in the saddle and rode to the finish without his irons. It’s a very impressive display that somehow avoided injury and shows great dedication from the young man on board to not only save it but to finish the race, too. As they say, what goes up must come down!
6. Tom O’Brien – Jimmy The Digger (Uttoxeter 2021)
Tom O’Brien is a familiar name to fans of jumps racing in Britain, as is his recovery at Uttoxeter earlier this year. O'Brien was riding the favourite in the race for trainer Henry Daly and was travelling well until a desperate mistake at the 8th almost saw him hit the deck. The horse, almost down on its nose, forced a brilliant sit from O’Brien as he dived at the hurdle. Out of control and hanging badly right upon landing, O’Brien had to correct himself and his mount as they drifted ever closer to the far rail. Once back in control, they had drifted to the back of the field, losing all momentum with a mile to go. But an excellent ride saw O’Brien get the horse back into contention, challenging the leader approaching the last and drawing clear on the run-in. An impressive victory made even more impressive by the mid-race recovery that almost saw the pair go their separate ways. He eventually won by some 7.5L. Ride of the month maybe?
5. Lorcan Williams – Financial Outcome (Uttoxeter 2020)
A promising young jockey, Lorcan Williams, showcased all of his skill aboard Financial Outcome to get himself back in the saddle. Going okay just behind the leader, the horse went straight through the fourth-last fence, pitching Lorcan up the horse’s neck and then leaving him hanging precariously next to the horse’s head. From this position, it looked inevitable that he was going to hit the turf, but some brilliant horsemanship and strength saw him swing his leg back over the horse and finish the race. Despite briefly facing backwards, eye to eye with the horse itself, he got his left foot back in his stirrup and regained some sort of momentum, eventually finishing 3rd. A superb display of strength and courage brought about cheers from the crowd as he kept the horse on an even keel to the line. Perhaps there’s a career for him as a gymnast in the future?
4. Mikey Sweeney – Ask Heather (Boulta 2019)
Some point-to-point action this time sees Mikey Sweeney aboard Ask Heather. Sweeney’s mount was the favourite and travelling through the race nicely, with a 2L advantage approaching the last fence. What looked like it was going to be a comfortable win soon became serious after the horse ploughed straight through the top of the fence, almost tipping Sweeney over its head. Miraculously, Sweeney wrestled his way back into the plate, despite clinging to the horse’s neck and almost coming to a stop. Within a few seconds, the horse had gone from standing to flying, finding a remarkable turn of foot to accelerate towards, past, and away from his closest challenger. He won the race assertively by some 4L. Hard work and a willingness to succeed are just a few attributes of this great young rider, and what a recovery that was!
3. Gavin Sheehan – Ardmayle (Fakenham 2017)
As we’ve seen above, jockeys make some amazing recoveries in racing, but perhaps not as many as Gavin Sheehan did in this one race alone. Ardmayle produced perhaps one of the worst rounds of jumping you will ever see. He blundered at the 2nd fence after getting in too close, before following up with an awful attempt at the 7th, going straight through the top of the hurdle. The horse stumbled badly, down on its nose with its hind legs sprawled, but somehow Sheehan sat tight and avoided going straight over the horse's head, keeping control and holding 2nd position. Another blunder came at the 11th as he was challenging for the lead, almost pulling up before the flight and going straight through it, with Sheehan making yet another fantastic recovery. Further mistakes occurred at the 2nd last and final fences, with Sheehan somehow maintaining his position in the saddle and his feet in the stirrups. Sheehan heavily eased the horse on the run-in, eventually coming home in 4th, but it was a miracle he even got around. Some extraordinary control and balance by the jockey after one of the most alarming displays of jumping ever seen sees Ardmayle take 3rd on the list. Incredible!
2. Jack Kennedy – Robin Des Mana (Clonmel 2017)
Back to Ireland again and here we have Jack Kennedy riding for Gordon Elliott. Kennedy was aboard Robin Des Mana and had led at a steady pace from the outset, with a narrow advantage approaching the 4th. A mistake upon taking the fence where he got in underneath ended up shooting Kennedy out of the saddle and left him dangling from the left-hand side of the horse. A few seconds of pure grit and determination saw the jockey clinging on for dear life, before folding his way over the horse's back at a right angle, eventually regaining an upright position in the saddle. Luckily, the horse was running next to the rail, which kept it straight, with a slight bump giving Jack extra time to manoeuvre himself back onto the horse. Maybe a slightly embarrassing scenario from what looked like a relatively minor mistake, but a great test of strength and ability to avoid hitting the turf by the jockey. Kennedy and his mount eventually won the race from the 50/1 outsider, Kiera Royale, by ½ L. A gutsy performance by both horse and jockey takes 2nd place on this list.
1. Aaron Kuru – Des De Jeu (Awapuni 2018)
For the winner, we are off to New Zealand. Jockey Aaron Kuru put in an unbelievable performance aboard Des De Jeu at Awapuni, after the horse made a terrible error at the first. A misjudgement saw the horse laid flat on the track upon landing, sliding forwards and with the jockey sliding next to him. But thanks to some lightning-fast reflexes, Kuru leapt back onto his mount in a flash, and with a great show of horsemanship, was back on the move. Eventually regaining his irons, he got the horse back into contention and chasing the leaders before too long, taking all the remaining fences in style. Only the hot favourite stood in the way of victory, and upon taking the last, Kuru and Des De Jeu powered clear to take one of the most unlikely victories ever. A stunning victory, and what a remarkable effort from both horse and jockey!
An honourable mention has to go to Jody McGarvey aboard Great Field. The horse had travelled like a dream, leading from the front, and still with a comfortable advantage approaching the last. A peck on landing, though, almost threw McGarvey from the saddle, causing him to lose his irons and having to regain all momentum. A brilliant effort saw the horse ridden out to maintain his advantage and win by some 8L. Despite a late scare, the jockey did incredibly well to stay aboard the horse, and despite clinging to the back of the horse’s neck for a few seconds, scored a well-deserved victory.
So that’s that, my top 10 most impressive jockey recoveries of the last 10 years. There are some quite incredible recoveries included in this list that even today beg the question of just how they stayed in the saddle. The fact that many went on to win their races too is really something! A round of applause for all the horses and jockeys involved!
Are there any recoveries, perhaps from outside the last 10 years that you would include? Let me know in the comments down below!