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Hern's right-hand man Procter dies at 75

Brigadier Gerard: one of the many top horses that Brian Procter rode in work
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Few men in racing show such loyalty and give such long service to the sport as Brian Procter, who has died at the age of 75.

Procter was associated with numerous good horses in 55 years as a jockey and work-rider before finally retiring just short of his 70th birthday.

"He only had two jobs," said his son Tony, himself a former jockey and now travelling head lad for John Gosden. "He was with Sir Gordon Richards and then Dick Hern when he retired. Then when the Major retired he moved to Godolphin until he retired himself.

"He loved horses, he was a natural. He was one in a million and I wouldn't have had the career I had and be the person I am without his guidance."

Born and raised in the north-east, Procter taught himself to ride and joined Richards as an apprentice on leaving school at 15.

Although he enjoyed success on the track, it was as a work-rider that Procter found his real talent and on moving to Hern he partnered stars such as Brigadier Gerard, Bustino and Dayjur on the gallops.  

Dick Hern: Brian Procter worked for the Major from 1970 until 1997

"He was Dick Hern's right-hand man and I had some good times with him," stable jockey Willie Carson recalled. "He was involved with everything that happened at West Ilsley. If there was a problem Dick and Brian sorted it out.

"Nothing fazed him, he knew what to do with horses. He was a great man to have in the yard and a great man to deal with a difficult horse. That's why he got the job of riding Boldboy, because he was difficult."

His knack with a tricky horse meant Procter unexpectedly got the better of Carson when subsequent St Leger winner Minster Son – whom the champion jockey bred – made his debut at Newbury.

"I was on Unfuwain, the hot favourite, and Dick told Brian to get a hold of Minster Son and give him a couple of sharpeners and set him alight as he was being a playboy at home," Carson recalled. "But I couldn't catch him – I was expecting him to stop but he never did."

Procter was also part of the legendary gallop in which subsequent 2,000 Guineas and Derby winner Nashwan first showed his star quality.

"I sat last of the four on Nashwan and Brian was on a top handicapper," Carson recalled. "I went past him and when I pulled up and looked round there was nobody in sight.

"When I got back I said to Brian, 'What the hell did you pull up for?' And he said, 'I didn't pull up!' That's when we all went, 'Hello!'"

Procter gave up race-riding after suffering a neck injury in a fall at Bath in 1994 and after Hern retired in 1997 he took a job with Godolphin, travelling the world and riding work on numerous top horses. He was a finalist in the Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff Awards in 2008.

As well as his son, he is survived by his wife Jennifer and daughters Julie and Jeanette. The funeral will be at Bury St Edmunds Crematorium at 3pm on Tuesday, March 14.

He loved horses, he was a natural. He was one in a million and I wouldn't have had the career I had and be the person I am without his guidance
E.W. Terms
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