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Nine-time Irish champion jockey Johnny Roe dies at 79

Johnny Roe, who died on Sunday aged 79
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Multiple champion Irish Flat jockey and Classic-winning rider Johnny Roe has died aged 79.

Roe was renowned as an outstanding rider on the Flat, winning the Irish title nine times between 1963 and 1974.

He began his career as an apprentice with Seamus McGrath in the early 1950s and initially rode in what was Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), before making his mark back in Ireland.

At different stages he rode as stable jockey to Vincent O'Brien and John Oxx snr, before a spell at Rosewell House in the early stages of Dermot Weld's training career.

Paying tribute on Monday, Weld said: "I'm saddened to hear of Johnny's passing. He rode many winners for me and was stable jockey for me in 1974 when he rode two Royal Ascot winners for the yard – Highest Trump in the Queen Mary and Red Alert in the Jersey. He also won the Stewards' Cup on Red Alert the same year.

"He was very dedicated and I'd describe him as a very forceful hands-and-heels rider. He wasn't a whip jockey – rode four winners for me one day at Leopardstown when he never went for the whip."

Roe had his best season domestically with 87 wins in 1972. Three years later he recorded a career highlight when riding Nocturnal Spree, trained by Stuart Murless, the Curragh-based brother of Sir Noel Murless, to win the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket.

He won the 1964 Irish 1,000 Guineas on Royal Danseuse for McGrath and the 1967 Irish Oaks on Pampalina for Oxx snr.  

Roe also captured the 1971 National Stakes on Roberto for O'Brien and won the same race for the Ballydoyle trainer on Chamozzle the following year.

Other big-race wins included three in the Pretty Polly Stakes, on Place D'Etoile for Sir Hugh Nugent in 1970, Hurry Harriet for Paddy Mullins in 1973 and Miss Toshiba for Weld in 1975. He also won the Royal Hunt Cup on Continuation for McGrath in 1966.

One of the most widely travelled Irish riders of his generation, Roe partnered more than 2,500 winners in 20 countries, including Hong Kong, where he was very popular and successful, before retiring in 1980.

He trained for five years in Macau before a deteriorating financial
climate led to a transition to a role as a bloodstock agent,
concentrating on markets in the Far East.

Johnny Roe (right) with fellow Irish champion Flat jockey George McGrath in 2005

Roe, who was predeceased by his daughter Jackie, leaves wife Helen, sons Michael and Brian, and an extended family.

Roe, who died in St Vincent's University Hospital in Dublin on Sunday, will lie in repose at Thomas Murphy & Sons Funeral Home in Bray on Tuesday from 6pm to 8pm, with evening prayers at 7.40pm.

His funeral mass is at 10am on Wednesday at St Mary's Church, Sandyford, followed by interment in St Mochonog's Cemetery, Kilmacanogue, County Wicklow.

No flowers, but donations, if desired, to Irish Injured Jockeys.


Born March 26, 1938
Apprenticed to Seamus McGrath, Sandyford, County Dublin
First winner Chosen Star, Naas, May 22, 1954
Irish Classic winners Royal Danseuse (1964 1,000 Guineas), Pampalina (1967 Oaks)
British Classic winner Nocturnal Spree (1975 1,000 Guineas)
Pattern wins on Roberto 1971 Anglesey Stakes, National Stakes, 1972 Vauxhall Trial Stakes

Other notable winners in Ireland Feemoss (1963 Blandford Stakes), Adriatic Star (1964 Phoenix Stakes), Place D'Etoile (1970 Pretty Polly Stakes), Abergwaun (1971 Rockingham Handicap), Boucher (1971 Beresford Stakes, 1972 Nijinsky Stakes, Desmond Stakes), Home Guard (1972 Tetrarch Stakes, Rockingham Handicap), Chamozzle (1972 National Stakes, Beresford Stakes), Star Appeal (1973 Madrid Free Handicap), Hurry Harriet (1973 Pretty Polly Stakes, 1975 Ballymoss Stakes), Bigaroon (1973 Irish Cesarewitch), Miss Toshiba (1975 Pretty Polly Stakes)

Other notable winners outside Ireland Mandamus (1965 William Hill Gold Cup), Continuation (1966 Royal Hunt Cup), Current Coin (1966 Cork and Orrery Stakes), Red Alert (1974 Jersey Stakes, Stewards' Cup), Highest Trump (1974 Queen Mary Stakes), Hot Spark (1975 Palace House Stakes), Steel Heart (1975 Goldene Peitsche)

Champion Flat jockey 9 times (1963, 1964, 1966-68, 1971-74)

Most wins in a season 87 in 1972 (broke Martin Quirke's Irish Flat record of 86 in 1923)

Most wins in a British season 44 in 1965

Compiled by John Randall

He was a very forceful hands and heels rider. He rode four winners for me one day at Leopardstown when he never went for the whip.

Key data

D K Weld
E.W. Terms