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The spirit of National Hunt racing,
This review is from: Better Than Sex: My Autobiography (Hardcover)
To it's devotees there is nothing like National Hunt racing. We happily brave all that the unpredictable winter weather throws at us to be close to the horses and the people who make it happen. This sport brings all of those who participate and all of those who watch right up to the edge. This is an extreme sport that gives no quarter and none is asked.
The careers of National Hunt jockeys are more precarious than their flat comrades. Their injuries often far worse and more frequent and while many of us are thrilled to watch few of us would have the guts to take part. It is no wonder then that jump jockeys achieve a hero status amongst their fans.
Mick Fitzgerald is no exception.
Jump horses are around longer than most flat racehorses and the public become attached to them and those who ride them. Sometimes something magical occurs between a jockey and a horse who otherwise may never have reached it's potential.
Although never Champion Jockey Mick rode in and won most of the big races and became associated with racehorses who the public adored such as Rough Quest, See More Business, Stormyfairweather, Katarino, Get Real, Call Equiname, Bacchanal, Geos and Marlborough.
One of the things which set him apart from other jockeys was his relationship with the horses he rode and schooled, and his loyalty to his boss, trainer Nicky Henderson. Marlborough had nothing but letters next to his name when they took him over because he had unseated, pulled up or fallen so many times. His former trainer thought the world of the horse but it was Mick and Nicky who drew out the greatness that was there by understanding the nature of the horse and teaching him to settle and jump. Due to injury Mick was not able to ride Marlborough in his last win. It was Ruby Walsh who guided the 12 year old rapturous applause in the Racing Post Chase, and he writes of the ups and downs candidly and with gratitude for the good times.
His finest moment is hard to pinpoint, even for him, but he does touch on it in the book.
For me? It has to be on my favourite chaser See More Business in the 1999 Cheltenham Gold Cup. Usually a slightly dodgy jumper and prone not to concentrate in his races after being carried out of the 1998 Cheltenham Gold Cup See More was rejuvenated on the gallops by Mick and a pair of blinkers. They were overlooked in the betting and started at 16/1. It made no difference to Mick or See More - the new partnership stormed up the hill, put in a big one at the last, brought the house down and a first Cheltenham Gold Cup back to Ditcheat for owner Paul Barber and trainer Paul Nicholls. I'll never forget it or either of them.