Festival-winning Harding to quit saddle on Friday
One Man's jockey will call it a day at Perth
Brian Harding, who won the Queen Mother Champion Chase on One Man, will call time on a long and successful riding career at Perth on Friday.
Fittingly, his final ride is likely to be in the Heineken 'Closing Time' National Hunt Flat Race on Anywaythewindblows, trained by Nicky Richards for whose stable at Greystoke in Cumbria Harding has ridden for nearly a quarter of a century.
"I am not getting any younger and I will be 45 in September," Harding said on Tuesday. "As jockeys go, that's a fair age. No matter who you are, at some stage you have got to stop.
"I have been very lucky, the last few years have been great, but at the start of the season I spoke to Nicky, to my agent Richard Hale and my girlfriend Kelly and decided this was going to me my last year.
"I'm still loving it but I would rather stop when I am going well than get to the stage when you stop because you have to as nobody wants you any more."
Richards' late father Gordon trained One Man, on whom Harding gained the most prestigious of more than 600 career winners in the 2m showpiece at Cheltenham in 1998.
That success came less than four months after the jockey had spent a year out of action when he suffered a fractured skull in a fall – and he was also on board a fortnight later when the popular grey was killed at Aintree.
Harding was born in County Cork, the son of a dairy farmer who broke in Dawn Run, and he grew up in the same village as the legendary mare's Champion Hurdle and Cheltenham Gold Cup-winning jockey Jonjo O'Neill.
He started out pony racing and rode five winners on the Flat while apprenticed to Kevin Prendergast before moving to Greystoke in 1992.
Harding, whose younger brother Richard is an amateur rider who has won three races at the Cheltenham Festival and the Foxhunters' Chase at Aintree, finished third in the Grand National on Simply Gifted in 2005 and won the Irish equivalent on Granit D'Estruval in 2004.
"I have been very lucky and done a job I would call a hobby," he said. "Winning the Queen Mother was fantastic and so was going back to Ireland and winning the Irish National. I loved the Grand National – I rode in nine Grand Nationals and I got round in six."
Addington Boy, Eduard, Grey Abbey, McGregor The Third, Simply Ned, The French Furze and The Grey Monk are among other good horses he partnered during a career whose continued success is underlined by the fact he enjoyed his best season as recently as 2014-15 when he rode 56 winners.
Harding is already an accredited jockeys' coach and, having broken horses in during the summer for more than a decade, he aims to build up a pre-training livery business.
"I admire anyone who goes training but that's not something I want to do and I love working with young horses," he said. "It will be a change but we have all got to do it – and I have seen some brilliant lads have to stop due to injury."
Emma Marley, BHA head of raceday operations said: "Brian’s achievements have been remarkable and we wish to extend our sincerest thanks for his support and guidance via his role as PJA jump safety officer for the north.
"His commitment, attention to detail and pragmatic approach to track safety has been of valued assistance to clerks of the courses and our course Inspectors. He will be greatly missed and we wish him well on his new adventure."
THE LIFE OF BRIAN
25 years of success in the saddle
Full name Brian Patrick Harding
Born September 26, 1972
Apprenticed to Kevin Prendergast, the Curragh; Gordon Richards, Greystoke
First winner over jumps Palm House, Kelso, October 17, 1992
Queen Mother Champion Chase winner One Man (1998)
Irish Grand National winner Granit D'Estruval (2004)
Fighting Fifth Hurdle winner The French Furze (2003)
Mildmay Novices' Chase winner Addington Boy (1996)
Future Champion Novices' Chase winners Grey Abbey (2001), Eduard (2014)
Peter Marsh Chase winner Samstown (2015)
Other notable winners McGregor The Third (3 Cheltenham cross-country races), Donnybrook (2000 Dipper Novices' Chase), Glinger (2004 Summer Plate), Direct Access (2005 Rehearsal Chase), Harmony Brig (2007 Rehearsal Chase), Double Hit (2010 EBF Mares' Novices' Chase Final), Duke Of Navan (2013 Morebattle Hurdle, 2015 Scotty Brand Chase), Streams Of Whiskey (2014 Grassroots Chase Final), Glingerburn (2015 Morebattle Hurdle, Premier Kelso Novices' Hurdle)
Placed mount in Grand National Simply Gifted (3rd 2005)
Top-rated mount One Man (RPR 173, 1998 Queen Mother Champion Chase)
Highest position in jump jockeys' table joint-15th (2014-15)
Most wins in a season 56 (2014-15)
Total wins over jumps 625 (GB 624, Ireland 1)