Sport Horse Racing

Wednesday 19 June 2019

Tenacious Geraghty refuses to think about retirement

He may be battling back from 'the worst leg break of his life' but the 39-year-old won't yet follow the path of friends Walsh and McCoy

Barry Geraghty. Photo: Sportsfile
Barry Geraghty. Photo: Sportsfile

Chris Cook

This time last year, Barry Geraghty was fit, but, according to the rumour mill, ripe for retirement and poised to make that announcement the next time he rode a big winner. It is testament to how wrong such rumours can be that the veteran jump jockey is now battling to get back from what he describes as the worst bone break he has ever suffered and yet he still cannot contemplate the idea of quitting the saddle.

"I enjoy it so much, I really do," he says, an external frame still holding together the bits of his lower right leg, shattered by an Aintree fall in April. "For me, there's nothing better than turning in with two to jump and 'race on'. I'd miss that too much."

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Geraghty's weighing room colleagues have been setting a clear example for him this spring, Noel Fehily having retired in March and Ruby Walsh in May. Walsh is four months older than Geraghty, so possibly there is an element of denial when the younger man says how surprised he was at the other's decision to call a halt, right after winning the Punchestown Gold Cup.

"Like, there was a little bit of chat," Geraghty says. "But I was at home, watching it that day, and I was shocked. Having ridden so brilliantly, all the way through his career, but on that day in particular, he gave Kemboy an unbelievable ride, and then just to sign off.It was alien to me, to see him do that. I couldn't, I couldn't get my head round it. But he obviously had his head round it.

"I was there at Punchestown on the Thursday and the Friday after it and he was still going round with a smile and happy. You can't fake that. He had made the right decision, he signed off on the top note."

For jockeys of their standing, there will never be a perfect time to retire because there will always be a promising young horse that might give them several big days the next winter. Even so, Geraghty is still stunned that Walsh would quit just as the enormous talent of Chacun Pour Soi ("that good horse of Ricci's that beat Defi Du Seuil") was beginning to reveal itself. "That was a head-scratcher to me," he says. "And AP [McCoy] was a bit the same, we were both saying, 'Jeez . . .' But that's Ruby, it's black and white and he called it."

Geraghty is not ready to call it. Now that Walsh has gone, he has more Cheltenham Festival wins to his name than any jockey who still holds a licence and hopes to add to his tally of 38 next year. The skill, insight and sheer effort that went into getting Sire Du Berlais to win the Pertemps Final in March amounted to one of the finest rides seen at the home of jump racing or anywhere else.

Thanks to his job riding for JP McManus, there is a stack of equine talent to keep in mind if he needs motivating during the long, tedious hours of rehab that lie ahead. Before that, there is the small matter of getting his bones to heal.

"I'd say it's the worst fracture I've had. I broke the other leg, I've broken both arms but yeah ... it was a straightforward break, a clean break, but it had to be realigned, there was a bit of work had to go into it."

With his 40th birthday on the horizon, it is no surprise that Geraghty's body takes a bit longer to repair itself than it might have done a couple of decades ago. "I would have denied that for years. But our now four-year-old son broke his leg off the trampoline two years ago and he took the exact same fracture as I'd done the year before that. He was running round in the cast 12 days later. I wasn't running round in the cast 12 weeks later. As much as you want to deny it, the body slows down, I suppose.

"I saw the surgeon last week and he's very happy with it. I'll see him again in a couple of weeks. It's progressing well. I was originally hoping to make it back for Galway and that's still a possibility," he says, alluding to the week-long meeting that starts on 29 July.

"I haven't pressed him for an answer about timing. You can only really know two weeks before." In the meantime, he keeps himself busy by attending to the three children and ten horses that share a home with him.

For most of his career, Geraghty has made an enjoyable sideline out of buying and selling young horses, the Gold Cup winner Bobs Worth being the most notable example, and at least he has time to put into that this summer.

"That's always something I've been into, it's a good distraction. And I've some nice ones to look forward to."

With his fellow injured jockey Mark Enright, who has a fractured shoulder, Geraghty recently loaded some ponies into a trailer and took them to his child's play school, where they gave a group of youngsters their first chance to sit in a saddle. Weren't the poor kids scared by the sight of two battered old jump jockeys? He laughs and acknowledges that the pair of them may not, at that point, have been looking their best.

"That was one of my initial worries about getting the frame, this'll be desperate for our own kids to have to look at this. But kids adjust and within two days it's become second nature."

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