Has a jockey ever won BBC Sports Personality of the Year?

Taking place every December, the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award highlights those at the height of sporting achievement that year. All sports are eligible though the recipient has to be either British or for their sport to be mostly played in this country. A short list of contenders is drawn up and the general public vote for the eventual winner. A who’s who of sports greats have won the competition – which first took place in 1954 – over the years. Stirling Moss, Henry Cooper, Lennox Lewis, Andy Murrow, the list goes on. In 2019 cricketer Ben Stokes took the prize.

So how has the sport of horse racing fared over this period of time? Well, if we extend the classification to horse / equine sports in general, in the early years of BBC Sports Personality, Show Jumping did especially well. In the very first year it was held, Showjumper Pat Smythe came third and in 1960, Welshman David Broome, another Showjumper won the award.

Horse racing waited the longest time to receive Sports Personality recognition. It wasn’t until 1996 that jockey Frankie Dettori came third in the competition (due to his astonishing achievement of riding all seven winners at Ascot – now known as Frankie’s Magnificent Seven). In 2002 fellow jockey Tony Mccoy joined Frankie by grabbing third spot that year. In 2010, off the back of winning the Grand National riding Don’t Push It, he then went two steps better and became the first and only jockey to have won the Sports Personality of the Year award. In 2013 he against featured, this time placing third again.

With such a stellar career it’s no surprise Tony McCoy received recognition on a national level by sports and especially horse racing fans. The Irishman rode over 4000 winners over the course of his career and he was the British jump racing Champion Jockey a staggering 20 years in a row. Grand National aside, he’s also won the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Champion Hurdle, King George VI Chase, Queen Mother Champion Chase and countless other high profile races. In 2016 Mccoy was knighted, making him Sir Anthony Peter McCoy.

 

 

Who was Liam Treadwell?

Liam Treadwell was a Grand National winning national hunt jockey born in the market town of Arundel, West Sussex. During his prolific career he won more than 300 races during a ten year period (and 308 wins total). His education and indeed career in horse racing was closely tied with trainer Venetia Williams, who gave him the ride on 2009 Grand National winning Mon Mome after her principle jockey turned down the chance to ride it. The unlikely 100-1 win made Williams only the second ever female trainer to claim victory in the race (after Jenny Pitman). It was Treadwell’s debut in the race and yet his triumph resulted in an memorable achievement – and only the 5th time in the history of the Grand National a horse of those odds had won the race.

He was famously, and jokingly, mocked for his gap-toothed appearance directly after the 2009 Grand National race by interviewer Clare Balding, which resulted in a free dental makeover by a promotion savvy dentist.

The ambitious jockey’s successes in 2009 didn’t end there though. He also won the United House Gold Cup in Ascot that very same year. In 2013 he was still impressing, with a win at the Cheltenham Festival on Carrick boy. In 2015 Liam Treadwell placed third in the Grand National on Monbeg Dude and had a further success in the Grand Sefton Steeplechase. Unfortunately the following year, 2016, was a year that will be remembered for all of the wrong reasons. Following a fall at Bangor, Treadmill was unconscious for several minutes after sustaining a head injury. The concussion resulted in a lasting impact. He spoke of the mental health toll of what he described as the ‘big bang’ in ‘Jockey Matters’.

He spoke candidly about the indicent at the time, “The symptoms of concussion probably wore off after six weeks or two months, but I was mentally not very well and my brain was still a bit fragile when I exercised… I didn’t want to ride a horse as I felt so grim, so disillusioned, and I was shutting myself away, not talking to anyone; I wasn’t diagnosed with depression, but in my own head, sitting on the sofa at home, I felt depressed.”

He officially retired from professional riding in 2018, before recovering enough to make a comeback possible in 2019, and he rode some 20 winners in the 2019-2020 season. Treadmill died on 23rd June 2020, at just 34 years old. His family describe him as “polite, funny, kind and brave“. From Grand National highs on Mon Mome, to this sad time 11 years on, Liam Treadwell had his struggles but also, in his own jovial yet determined fashion, made his mark in the sport of racing.

 

What happens if a jockey is unseated at, or on the way to, the start?

Under current British Horseracing Authority (BHA) rules, if a jockey is unseated, for whatever reason, before the start of a race, they may remount, provided that the course doctor and veterinary surgeon say that it is safe to do so. However, since November 2, 2009, once the field is ‘under starter’s orders’, if a jockey parts company with their horse they cannot remount to complete the race and, without exception, will be disqualified if they do. Not only that, but a jockey is also not allowed to ride their horse back to the unsaddling enclosure unless horse and jockey have, once again, been cleared by racecourse medical staff.

Of course, the rule change on remounting introduced the possibility of no finishers and, therefore, no result in a race and that is exactly what happened in a novices’ chase at Towcester on March 17, 2011. Two of the four runners fell and unseated rider, independently, at the sixth fence and one of the remaining two tried to refuse and fell at the final fence, badly hampering the other and causing him to unseat his rider. The race was voided, along with all bets upon it, and all stakes contributed by owners prior to the race were returned.

What are Alex Greaves’ claims to fame?

Retired lady jockey Alex Greaves was married to the late David ‘Dandy’ Nicholls, a renowned racehorse trainer, but has several claims to fame in her own right. Dubbed the ‘Queen of the Sands’ by the racing press after a raft of early successes on the all-weather tracks, which were newly laid in the late Eighties, Greaves proved anything but a ‘one-trick pony’.

In 1991, Greaves became the first female apprentice – and still one of only a handful – to achieve 95 winners and thereby ride out her apprentice claim. In 1996, as a full-fledged professional, she became the first female jockey to ride in the Derby, albeit finishing last of the twenty runners on rank outsider Portuguese Lil, trained by her husband. In 1997, she also became the first female jockey to ride a Group One winner in Britain; in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York, she delivered Ya Malak, again trained by her husband, to dead-heat with Coastal Bluff, whose bit had broken with a furlong to run. On her retirement from race riding, in March 2005, Alex Greaves had ridden a total of 287 winners.

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