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‘He was someone who made others happy’ - jockeys pay tribute to James Banks

James Banks (second left) with colleagues (left to right) Richard Johnson, Nico de Boinville and Tom Scudamore at Chepstow on his retirement two years ago
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Fun, fantastic and extremely popular were among the words used by former weighing room colleagues to describe James Banks on Tuesday following the shock death of the ex-jump jockey.

Banks was found dead at his home in Naunton, Gloucestershire on Monday morning, almost two years to the day since he called time on his riding career.

Many emotional and poignant messages have been posted on social media about Banks, who rode 85 winners in Britain, and jockeys sported black armbands on Tuesday in memory of the jump jockey and Gold Cup-winning trainer Robert Alner.

Wayne Hutchinson was closely associated with Banks through their time with Alan King and schooling sessions for Noel Williams.

He said: "James was a top guy and always made you laugh. He was a really bubbly person to be around and a fantastic human being.

"He put a smile on everyone’s face and was a really outgoing person. He was someone who made others happy.

Hutchinson added: "I remember at Uttoxeter one day he wasn’t travelling down the inside with a circuit to go and he pulled out a manoeuvre that would upset anyone and everyone by wheeling his mount to the outside to stoke him up and get him travelling but in doing so barged people out the way.

"It caused a concertina effect and a bit of upset, but when we came back in within ten to 15 seconds Banksy had everyone laughing and he made a joke over the manoeuvre and defused the situation immediately. That summed up the great character of the man."

As an amateur jockey Banks enjoyed Cheltenham success aboard Rustarix in front of the Channel 4 cameras at the November meeting in 2010, as well as steering West Of The Edge to Lincolnshire National success in a Boxing Day treble at Market Rasen in 2016.

Tom Scudamore said: "James was a lot of fun to be around and was extremely popular in the weighing room. You certainly wouldn't have called him shy and retiring and he was quite a character. 

"He was one of those people you were always happy to see so it came as a massive shock yesterday.

"He was always a very friendly bloke and a tough little bugger on the track – he was a good jockey and gave everything a ride."

Banks was assistant to Clive Cox and then worked for Emma-Jane Bishop, who he rode 17 winners for, in his short time following his riding career.

Harry Skelton said: "James always made the weighing room light up whether it be driving rain on a Monday at Plumpton or somewhere nice and glamorous in the summer.

"He was very competitive in the saddle, a good rider and wanted to win just as much as all of us. He was a great character and will be sorely missed."

Daryl Jacob added: "James was a wonderful character in the weighing room and always brought plenty of laughter.

“He was a beautiful rider and had a good career. Himself and Mattie Batchelor were a powerful combination in the weighing room and made plenty of jokes with plenty of people.”

The Injured Jockeys Fund and Professional Jockeys Association said in a statement: "James was an immensely popular member of the weighing room and remained so since his retirement from the saddle in February 2018, as has been so clearly demonstrated by the tributes from his friends and colleagues. He worked extremely hard and was passionate about and dedicated to his craft.

"It was testament to this dedication that, having switched to the professional ranks relatively late in his career, he was one of the very few 'claiming professionals' who was able to ride out his claim. He had an infectious personality with a sharp sense of humour and that is the James we will all remember. 

"Underneath this outgoing exterior James had issues that he bravely tried to address. He had the support of a loving family and was aware of and had engaged with the extensive support available to current and former professional riders.

"We are all deeply upset by the news of his death and he will be greatly missed by a significant number of people whose lives he touched. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends, and the IJF and PJA will offer them every support. We also ask that their privacy is respected at this incredibly difficult time."

Any current or former jockey affected by this news can obtain support by speaking to the PJA, IJF, or by directly contacting the PJA’s provider of counselling services – Sporting Chance – directly on 0778 000 8877, while anyone else in racing should call Racing Welfare on 0800 6300 443.

You certainly wouldn’t have called him shy and retiring and he was quite a character
E.W. Terms