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'I've fulfilled all my dreams' - Barry Geraghty says the time was right to go

Signing off: Barry Geraghty salutes the crowd after his final Cheltenham Festival victory on Saint Roi in the Randox Health County Hurdle
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Barry Geraghty says he has “fulfilled all my dreams” after bringing down the curtain on one of the most glittering riding careers in the history of jump racing.

Geraghty made the announcement on Saturday night at a private function for close friends and family at his Meath home, having pitched it as a belated 40th birthday party and a celebration of his epic week in the Cotswolds last March. He then revealed the news to the public on Twitter.

It means his last major act in the saddle was his Prestbury Park beano, when he farmed five wins from just 11 rides to take his final tally at the Cheltenham Festival to a mammoth 43.

Speaking to the Racing Post on Sunday, he was keen to stress the loyalty displayed throughout his 24-year career by his boss JP McManus and trainers Jessica Harrington and Nicky Henderson.

“I’ve fulfilled all my dreams,” said the dual Irish champion jockey. “As a kid growing up, you’re dreaming of Grand Nationals and Gold Cups and Champion Hurdles, so to get the chance to ride in them, let alone win them, was brilliant. I rode great horses, but I rode for great people as well. Jessie, Nicky and JP are probably the three main supporters all the way through.”

A titan of the weighing room, Geraghty hadn't ridden since jump racing resumed last month following the easing of the coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

Barry Geraghty: nonchalance and charisma illuminated the era of jumps galacticos

His final ride at the festival was a winning one, when he guided the Willie Mullins-trained Saint Roi to victory in the Randox Health County Hurdle for McManus, for whom he steered the Henderson-trained Epatante to Champion Hurdle success on the Tuesday.

Watch Barry Geraghty winning the Champion Hurdle on Epatante

“I was fairly happy it was going to be my last Cheltenham, and that was probably something you could see from my reactions on the winners I was riding – I knew this was the lap of honour,” said the rider, who admitted he would miss the buzz but is looking forward to spending more time with his wife Paula and children Siofra, Orla and Rian.

“To sign off on the week by winning the County Hurdle, I was going to pull the plug on it there and then, but then I was thinking that Aintree or Punchestown or Fairyhouse could go ahead, so I had to wait. But that was good, because it left me with the time to reflect. I came to realise it was the right thing to do and that I was completely happy with my decision. I’ve been able to appreciate it since Cheltenham.”

Watch Barry Geraghty's final Cheltenham Festival win on Saint Roi

Moscow Flyer and Barry Geraghty slam old foes Well Chief (left) and Azertyuiop (right) in the 2004 Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown

Geraghty's record at the four-day gala is topped only by his old rival Ruby Walsh, who checked out with 59. Sir Anthony McCoy, his predecessor as McManus's first-choice rider, is next best on 31.

Likewise, his exquisite big-race prowess is also second only to Walsh. In total, he amassed 121 Grade 1s, including two Gold Cups, four Champion Hurdles and five Queen Mother Champion Chases.

His stunning roll of honour in jump racing's marquee events is underscored by his Grand National triumph on the Jimmy Mangan-trained Monty's Pass at Aintree in 2003.

His final Grade 1 success came when he coaxed Henderson's Champ to an utterly spellbinding last-gasp victory in the RSA Chase.

In all, he partnered 1,920 Irish and British jumps winners, a figure that sees him sign off in fourth place on the list of jump racing's most successful riders of all time.

Geraghty missed the beginning of last season after breaking both the tibia and fibula above his right ankle when Peregrine Run fell three out in the Topham Chase at Aintree. He returned in October after six months off for what proved to be his final campaign, which yielded just two domestic winners.

'He was a brilliant jockey in every department' – Sir Anthony McCoy on Geraghty

However, he snared 25 in Britain and rolled back the years to bring the house down at Cheltenham in March. The Covid-19 pandemic promptly intervened and prevented him adding to his stellar big-race record, but he insists he was determined to go out at a time of his choosing.

“I was on the ground at Aintree last year, wondering if this was where it ends,” he recalled.

“I didn’t want it to, but I was looking at my leg, bent inwards, and I did wonder. Once the morphine kicked in, though, I was fine, and I wanted to try and go out on my own terms.

"Having initially had a reasonably good time of it with injuries, in the last five years I broke both legs, both arms, fractured eight ribs and punctured my lung, so I got a good bashing and that makes you take stock.

“It was a hard road back from the latest one, but I ended up having good success during the season and Cheltenham was great. Coming off such a high there, I did question the decision again, but it still felt like the right thing a couple of weeks later. The time was right. I spoke to JP about ten days ago and he was fully supportive and delighted for me to go out on such a good note.”

In Moscow Flyer and Sprinter Sacre, Geraghty had the privilege of riding two of the sport's most iconic two-mile chasers, while his Queen Mother haul saw him join Pat Taaffe as the joint-most successful rider in the race. He also shares that distinction in the Champion Hurdle with Walsh and Tim Molony.

Halcyon days: Geraghty guides Monty's Pass to a famous Grand National success in 2003

With four Tingle Creek Chases, two Stayers' Hurdles and two King George VI Chases, as well as an Irish Grand National on Shutthefrontdoor in 2014, Geraghty's big-race haul is splendidly complete. The Galway Plate was about the only event to elude him.

“Monty’s Pass in the Grand National is the one,” he said when asked for the single sweetest memory.

“It’s the race that is known the world over and it catches your imagination as a child. I’ll never forget that moment at the back of the third-last fence, with an eerie silence and travelling as easy as can be, when I realised I was on the verge of winning the biggest race in the world. I was sitting as quiet as a church mouse – it was a nice position to be in.”

Geraghty, who says he has no plans beyond concentrating on his existing bloodstock business along with some media work, was leading rider at the Cheltenham Festival in 2003 and 2012.

When he missed out due to injury in 2017, his sequence of riding a winner at every festival since 2002 was broken. He promptly got back in the groove with a brace there in 2018 and 2019, before returning for one last dance in March. It was quite the swansong.

Read more:

Noel Meade: Barry Geraghty was the strongest I have ever seen in a finish

Moscow Flyer, Sprinter Sacre... who's on our list of Geraghty's greatest horses?

Geraghty still reeling from Gold Cup contender Champ's finishing kick

It's Mullins, McManus and Geraghty again as Saint Roi wins the County Hurdle

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I came to realise it was the right thing to do and that I was completely happy with my decision
E.W. Terms