Jockey battled alcoholism to make a dramatic comeback in the Gold Cup
Published 20/01/2008 | 00:00
Bobby Beasley, the former National Hunt jockey who died on January 9, aged 72, won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1974 on Captain Christy; it was a remarkable achievement, given that several years earlier he been forced to abandon a brilliant riding career owing to a serious drink problem.
Before succumbing to alcohol Beasley had won a Cheltenham Gold Cup, a Champion Hurdle and a Grand National -- all by the age of 26 -- and it appeared that he was destined to become one of the great names in jump racing.
Beasley did not take his first drink until he was 24, but alcohol soon assumed control of his life. He lost his position as stable jockey to Fred Winter -- one of the biggest jobs in the sport -- and his marriage collapsed; his weight soared to 14 stone. Eventually he was persuaded to attend Alcoholics Anonymous. He was 38 -- and had been sober for five years -- when Pat Taaffe, the trainer and former rider of Arkle, gave him the ride on Captain Christy at Cheltenham.
Captain Christy had fallen on several occasions during his short career, and was still only a novice when he ran in the Gold Cup, during which he made a bad mistake at the last fence; but Beasley kept his nerve to drive his horse past the previous year's winner The Dikler to win by five lengths.
Many years later Beasley observed: "Christy gave me back my self-respect. He made a huge difference to my life and was a hell of a horse. I sometimes think of the mistake he made at the last fence. Imagine if he'd fallen. How would I have been able to live with that? I'd have been haunted for the rest of my days."
Henry Robert Beasley was born in London on August 26 1935 into an Irish racing family -- his grandfather had ridden his last winner aged 72 and retired from race-riding at 85. Bobby was brought up in Ireland, and won his first race aged 16, as an amateur at Leopardstown in 1952; his first winner as a professional came at Naas three years later.
Beasley was to be champion jockey in Ireland on three occasions. He won the 1959 Cheltenham Gold Cup on Roddy Owen in 1959, the Champion Hurdle on Another Flash in 1960, and the Grand National on Nicolaus Silver in 1961. He then rode in Britain for Fred Rimell and in Ireland for Paddy Sleator.
In 1963 he took the Mackeson Gold Cup on Richard of Bordeaux, and in 1966 the Triumph Hurdle on Black Ice. He was then forced to retire by his alcohol addiction and weight problems. In 1972 he was able to return to riding, joining Pat Taaffe's stable, and won that year's Irish Sweeps Hurdle; in 1973 he and Captain Christy took the Scottish Champion Hurdle.
After retiring from the saddle for good in 1975 Beasley trained for a time at Lewes and Marlborough. As if to prove that he had beaten his addiction, for eight years he ran a pub.
In recent years he had lived in Kent, working as an assistant to the trainer Linda Jewell and in a local vineyard.
With Tim Fitzgeorge-Parker he wrote an autobiography, Second Start.
Bobby Beasley was twice married. With his first wife, Shirley, he had a son and two daughters; with his second, Linda, who survives him, he had a son.