Tributes paid as jockey Walter Swinburn dies aged 55
David Metcalf | 13 December 2016
Walter Swinburn tribute
The racing world is in mourning following the news that former top jockey Walter Swinburn, rider of the brilliant Shergar, has passed away at the age of just 55.
Swinburn, who was nicknamed “the Choirboy”, was one of the greatest jockeys of his generation and partnered Shergar to a stunning 10-length romp in the 1981 Derby.
He was just 19 at the time and the pair where travelling so well turning for home around Tattenham Corner that Swinburn was standing up in his irons and looking round for non-existent dangers.
Shergar then shot clear when asked to win with ridiculous ease and commentator Peter Bromley summed it up perfectly when he said “you need a telescope to see the rest”.
Trained by Sir Michael Stoute, Shergar went on to claim the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot and Swinburn tasted further success the Epsom Classic on two other occasions courtesy of Shahrastani (1986) and Lammtarra (1995).
He also won the Irish Derby on Shareef Dancer in 1983 and Shahrastani in 1986, and a whole host of other big race successes adorned his CV before he retired from race riding in 2000 due to problems with his weight.
Swinburn won the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on the filly All Along in 1983 for Patrick Biancone and Breeders’ Cup Turf aboard the Stoute-trained Pilsudksi in 1996.
He landed the 1000 Guineas with Musical Bliss (1989), Hatoof (1992) and Sayyedati in 1993, with his 2000 Guineas success coming through Doyoun (1988).
In 1987 he again teamed up with Stoute to claim the Epsom Oaks aboard Unite, and also bagged two Group 1 successes in the Sussex Stakes at Glorious Goodwood and the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot on the immensely talented and highly-strung Zilzal in 1989.
Swinburn went on to saddle more than 250 winners as a trainer, including a Royal Ascot success with Julienas in the 2011 Royal Hunt Cup, before calling it a day five years ago due to commercial reasons.
John Francome, a friend of Swinburn, spoke of his shock having heard the news on Monday of his passing.
Francome told At The Races: “The news comes as an absolute shock as I only spoke to him a few months ago. He did have his troubled ways a long time ago, but it’s shocking that he has died so young. He was an absolutely gifted rider and he lived life to the full. He was at his happiest on a horse.”
His prowess in the saddle will live long in the memory and fellow jockeys and trainers have been quick to pay tribute to his immense talent on Twitter:
Very sad to hear about the death of Walter Swinburn. Brilliantly stylish & a genius in the saddle. A jockey that God hath retained. RIP
— AP McCoy (@AP_McCoy) December 12, 2016
Very saddened to hear the shocking news of Walter Swinburn passing away. A true talent and gentleman, thoughts are with his family.
— Frankie Dettori (@FrankieDettori) December 12, 2016
Shocked with the awful news that Walter Swinburn has passed away,another jockey has gone too soon.Immensely talented and gifted rider
— Richard Hughes (@RHughesracing) December 12, 2016
Very sad to hear that Walter Swinburn has past away brilliant jockey & poetry in the saddle. RIP
— Richard Johnson (@dickyjohnson77) December 12, 2016
— Robert Cowell (@cowellracing) December 12, 2016
Very sad to hear of the passing of Walter a racing legend, a gentleman and a true friend. My thoughts and prayers are with his family
— Jeremy Noseda (@JeremyNoseda) December 12, 2016
Walter Swinburn was a genius on a racehorse. He had beautiful hands and looked like he was born to ride.
May he rest in peace
— mick fitzgerald (@mickfitzg) December 12, 2016
Shocked and saddened to hear of the passing of Walter Swinburn. RIP.
— David Pipe (@DavidPipeRacing) December 12, 2016
RIP Walter Swinburn, very sad news. Walter was an inspiration to me when I started out. A true legend of our great sport.
— Royston Ffrench (@RoystonFfrench) December 12, 2016