Retiring jockey Jerry McGrath: I’ll miss the adrenaline of the saddle

Cork native has conceded defeat in his year-long battle to return to race-riding after a fall on Vegas Blue
Retiring jockey Jerry McGrath: I’ll miss the adrenaline of the saddle

Beware the Bear-winning jockey Jerry McGrath with parents Maureen and Pat. Picture: Healy Racing.

WATERFALL jockey Jerry McGrath announced his retirement this week after injury brought his career in the saddle to a premature end at aged 31.

A regular contributor to these pages around the Cheltenham Festival, McGrath looks set to remain part of the all-conquering Nicky Henderson team where he enjoyed a brilliant career in the saddle before his horrific fall at Lingfield last February.

McGrath memorably rode Une Artiste to victory in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle in 2012 and Beware The Bear in 2019.

McGrath has conceded defeat in his year-long battle to return to race-riding after a fall on Vegas Blue for his boss Henderson in an all-weather bumper when the mare tumbled after being short of room.

The jump jockey, who initially feared the incident might have left him paralysed, he dislocated and fractured his left shoulder and hip.

He started riding out in September but hopes of resuming a career that included more than 200 winners have been dashed

“The hip healed relatively well, but the shoulder has given me a lot of trouble. The bone has healed okay, but there’s a lot of metal in there and there was a lot of nerve damage,” McGrath said.

“I got back riding out and thought it was going the right way, but my bicep ruptured, and I’ve got what’s called Popeye Syndrome where my bicep is constantly tensed.

“It has affected me massively and the doctors and the BHA’s medical adviser Jerry Hill, who’s been a great help, agreed there wasn’t much we could do.

“I’ll miss the adrenaline, but maybe it’s easier; I haven’t had that buzz for 12 months. In a weird way, I’ve been weaned off it.

It’s not something I like talking about, but I could have been in a wheelchair. I wasn’t knocked out, so remember everything, not feeling any pain and then it being excruciating.

“But you could live off that moment forever and end up ruining your life thinking about it. I’m at total peace with retirement and would have loved another five or six years, but I knew my fate before Christmas and I’ve accepted it better than I thought. I don’t want this to be the end of the world or a sob story. I’ve had some brilliant days, got some great memories and my life isn’t over.”

McGrath has started helping Henderson with his race planning but has no desire to train and is eyeing a career in bloodstock, an area in which he has become further involved under the guidance of David Minton during his time off.

Picture: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire
Picture: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

The Ballinora native was home over the holidays spotting the latest P2P stars at Dromahane in December.

Henderson led the tributes after the retirement announcement and is very keen to keep him involved at Seven Barrows.

“He’s been a very special man to us. He’s been at Seven Barrows a long time and he is part of the place and we really want him to remain here,” Henderson said.

“We all feel desperately sorry for him and I know he wanted to go on for a bit longer, he wasn’t ready to retire just yet.

It broke his heart not to be able to continue because he was very good at it. He is a wonderful horseman and the nicest guy you’ll ever come across. He’s such a team player.

“The owners loved him and some would specifically ask for him to ride their horses. The great thing about Jerry is that he is already helping me enormously with the entries and he has already got a second career in the bloodstock world, he is absolutely fascinated by it all.

“I think he knows the pedigree of every horse in England.”


Looking ahead to the weekend, the race being described as the race of the season between Shishkin and Energumene, remains on the cards as the big two headline five confirmations for the SBK Clarence House Chase at Ascot.

Henderson’s Shishkin, last year’s Arkle winner, is unbeaten in six chase starts and looks the heir apparent to former stablemate Altior, who dominated the two-mile scene for so long.

However, in the Willie Mullins-trained Energumene he is set to meet possibly his toughest rival to date as his only defeat since moving to Ireland came in a bumper back in November 2019.

The pair were due to meet in last year’s Arkle only for Energumene to suffer a late setback.

Finally, Gordon Elliott has reiterated his desire to head straight for the Cheltenham Gold Cup with Galvin despite entering him for the Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown next month.

The eight-year-old emerged as a serious contender for the blue riband when lunging late under Davy Russell to deny last year’s Gold Cup runner-up A Plus Tard back-to-back wins in Leopardstown’s Savills Chase in December.

Elliott stated afterwards that Galvin would not run again before the showpiece meeting at Prestbury Park in March but did enter him for the Irish Gold Cup last week.

“He’s in at Leopardstown, but I’d imagine he’ll go straight to the Gold Cup. We just stuck him in to give him an option, but he’ll go straight to the Gold Cup,” Elliot said.

Galvin is a best-priced 5-1 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, making him the second-favourite behind A Plus Tard at 7-2.

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