Which was the last horse that John Francome rode?
In April, 1985, having ridden 1,138 winners and won the National Hunt Jockeys’ Championship seven times, John Francome announced his immediate retirement from the saddle. His decision, at the age of 32, took many observers by surprise, but Francome had made it known to his one and only boss, Fred Winter, a year earlier that the 1984/85 would be his last. Indeed, Francome later cited disillusionment with continuous dieting, constant hunger and other lifestyle factors, including driving, as the principal reasons for calling time on his riding career; by his own admission, he ‘probably got a little bit bored with it’.
Nevertheless, his decision to retire was hastened by events at Chepstow on April 9, 1985. Having parted company with his mount, The Reject, who fell at the open ditch, Francome found himself briefly ‘hung up’, with his foot jammed in a stirrup iron and the stirrup leather twisted around his shin in such a way that he could not free himself. Thankfully, he managed to avoid a potentially life-threatening situation by seizing the reins before The Reject could gallop off, but thereafter his ‘head wasn’t in the right place’ and he ‘quit there and then’, without giving the decision a second thought.