Renowned horseman who enjoyed a successful race-riding and training career
Bunny Cox, who died on Monday night, was one of the greatest amateur jockeys who went on to enjoy considerable success as a trainer of racehorses.
John Richard Morris Cox was born in Mount Bailie House on the Armagh Road in 1923, son of John (Jack) and Florence Dorothy (Dally), nee Bell. He was raised in his parents’ home Rockview Farm, Blackrock.
By the age of sixteen he had already clocked up more than fifty wins on the point-to-point field, and was quickly coming to notice. He was offered professional status by legendary trainer Vincent O’Brien but his weight and height were not conducive to riding professionally, and he remained as an amateur.
He was restricted to riding twenty races per year against professional jockeys unless the horses were his own. The majority of horses he partnered were the family’s own breed. Among the most notable was Little Trix, a winner of the Prince Of Wales on day one of the Punchestown Festival and the Conyngham Cup the following afternoon.
His Cheltenham winners include Quitta Que, and National Hunt Chase winners, Pontage for Dan Moore, and Quare Times, trained by O’Brien. The latter went on to win the Aintree Grand National.
Other great horses he rode were Roddy Owen, Team Spirit and Atomic.
Among those he trained were Fort Fox, Highway View, Fortune Seeker, Four Trix, Sicilian Answer and Black Trix, while more recently Atone was the winner of the valuable Ladbroke Hurdle at Leopardstown.
Apart from riding at every course in Ireland and the principal venues in England, he competed in America, France and Italy.
Sir Peter O’Sullevan described him as the greatest amateur, while no less a jockey than Martin Molony said he was the greatest amateur he had seen.
After completing his Leaving Certificate at the Grammar School in Dundalk, he studied veterinary medicine at the Veterinary College in Dublin having completed his pre-med in Trinity College.
Unable to attend lectures, due to pressure of work and riding on Saturdays, he managed to graduate, even being awarded the Bronze Medal in Veterinary Medicine in Britain and Ireland for his paper on histology, the lectures on which he never once attended.
Upon graduation he worked for a time in his new profession in Naas, Co. Kildare.
In 1959, Bunny Cox purchased the Lisnawilly Estate from his uncle Dick’s widow for £1,800 and chose to live in the farmhouse.
In 1973 he married Sally Brabazon, a daughter of famous jockey Aubrey Brabazon who rode Cottage Rake to three Cheltenham Gold Cup victories.
The couple have four children, Jennifer, Richard, Suzanne and Michelle.
Suzanne took over the training licence from her father three years ago.