Barry Geraghty, the second most successful jockey in the history of the Cheltenham Festival, has announced his retirement from the saddle aged 40.

The popular Irishman did so via Twitter at 10.30pm on Saturday, July 11. He tweeted: “A big thank you to my family, friends and everyone who has supported me over the last 24 years, tonight I am happy to say I am announcing my retirement.

“I’ve been blessed to have had a wonderful career and I’m looking to what the future holds.”

Since riding first winner aboard Stagalier for Noel Meade at Down Royal on January 29, 1997, Geraghty has gone on to land virtually every big race in Britain and Ireland – with The Galway Plate being the most notable prize he did not capture.

Geraghty rode five winners at this year’s Cheltenham Festival in March, including Epatante in the Champion Hurdle – his fourth success in the Grade 1 feature following Punjabi (2009), Jezki (2014) and Buveur D’Air (2018).

Champ, who grabbed a memorable last-gasp success in the RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase, when coming from 10 lengths behind at the final fence to land the spoils under a power packed ride, was his last winner at the highest level.

Geraghty bowed out with a total of 43 Cheltenham Festival winners during his career, a total only bettered by Ruby Walsh (59).

He was appointed first rider for leading Irish owner JP McManus in June 2015 and what was to be his final Festival success came in the famous green and gold colours aboard the Willie Mullins trained Saint Roi in the County Hurdle.

Geraghty was also twice crowned champion jockey in Ireland, in the 1999/2000 and 2003/04 seasons.

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Fourth most successful rider of all-time

In a career spanning 23 years, he partnered 1,920 winners over jumps. That figure sees him sign off in fourth place on the list of jump racing’s most successful riders of all time – behind Sir AP McCoy, Ruby Walsh and Richard Johnson.

Geraghty hadn’t ridden since jump racing resumed last month following the easing of the coronavirus lockdown restrictions, and will be sorely missed by jumps racing fans having been the man they could rely on when it came to all the major races and big meetings.

He has been associated with some jumping greats over the years, not least Champion Chase winners Sprinter Sacre and Moscow Flyer, while he has enjoyed notably successful partnerships with Jessica Harrington and Nicky Henderson.

In total, he amassed 121 Grade 1s, including two Gold Cups aboard Kicking King (2005) and Bobs Worth (2013), four Champion Hurdles, plus five Queen Mother Champion Chases on Moscow Flyer (2004/2005), Big Zeb (2010), Finian’s Rainbow (2012) and Sprinter Sacre (2013).

His stunning roll of honour also includes his Grand National triumph on the Jimmy Mangan trained Monty’s Pass at Aintree in 2003 when just 23 years of age.

Geraghty’s first Grade 1 win came aboard Alexander Banquet for Mullins in the 1999 Drinmore Chase. His breakthrough success at The Cheltenham Festival came on Jessica Harrington’s brilliant chaser Moscow Flyer in the 2002 Arkle Trophy.

A year later, they raised the roof at Prestbury Park when storming to a seven length success in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. The duo then parted company four out in 2004 before making amends a year later.

Forpadydeplasterer’s Arkle win will live long in the memory

In also partnering Sprinter Sacre to a 19-length demolition of Sizing Europe in 2013, Geraghty had the privilege of riding two of horse racing’s best ever two-mile chasers.

His Queen Mother haul of five saw him join Pat Taaffe as the joint-most successful rider in the race. He also shares that distinction in the Champion Hurdle with Walsh and Tim Molony.

Geraghty also captured two Stayers’ Hurdles courtesy of the Jonjo O’Neill duo Iris’s Gift (2004) and More Of That (2014), two King George VI Chases on Kicking King (2004 & 2005), four Tingle Creeks (Moscow Flyer in 2003 and 2004, Sprinter Sacre in 2012 and Defi Du Seuil in 2019), as well as an Irish Grand National on O’Neill’s Shutthefrontdoor in 2014.

He and Walsh are the only two riders to ride more than a century of Grade 1 winners as per the modern criteria.

My personal favourite among his Cheltenham Festival successes was aboard Forpadydeplasterer in the 2009 running of the Arkle. I had become firm friends with lots of The Goat Syndicate, who owned the Tom Copper trained gelding 12 months earlier.

They invited me into the parade ring to meet Geraghty and saddle up their charge who subsequently beat Kalahari King by the narrowest of margins following a ding dong tussle on the run-in.

I then had the honour of leading Forpadydeplasterer back into the winner’s enclosure with them and got to hold the Arkle Trophy during part scenes later in the evening at The Queen’s Hotel. It was a day I will never forget and Geraghty was a true gentleman.

He has made the right decision to go out at the top, but his absence in the weighing room will leave a big void and one which will arguably be impossible to fill.

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