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Jockey Walter Swinburn dies aged 55

Jockey Walter Swinburn
Jockey Walter Swinburn, most famous as the rider of the brilliant Shergar, has died, aged 55.

Walter Swinburn has been remembered as one of the most talented jockeys of his generation following his death at the age of 55.

Swinburn won three Epsom Derbys, his first as a 19-year-old in 1981 on Shergar.

His also won the Derby on Shahrastani (1986) and Lammtarra (1995) and among his other big race wins were the 1983 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on the filly All Along for trainer Patrick Biancone, while the Breeders’ Cup Turf came his way with the Stoute-trained Pilsudksi in 1996..

Swinburn took over the training licence from his father-in-law, Peter Harris, in November 2004, sending out over 260 winners from his Hertfordshire base before handing in his licence at the end of October 2011, citing financial reasons.

He also enjoyed a successful period as part of the Channel 4 Racing team, working with former National Hunt great John Francome among others. “I spoke to him a couple of months ago and he seemed in really good form,” Francome said.

“It’s absolutely shocking he should die aged 55. No age at all.

“He was an absolutely gifted rider, you never saw any horse pulling with him or having their head in the air.

“He was a little bit of a troubled soul in some ways, he had weight problems which probably affected him a lot more than other people, but that said that seemed to be a long time ago and he seemed to all intents and purposes fine, but obviously he wasn’t.”

Newmarket-based trainer James Fanshawe was assistant to Shergar’s trainer Sir Michael Stoute when Swinburn was the stable’s number one rider, and described him as a “brilliant jockey”.

“Walter and I were at Sir Michael Stoute’s together and he was a brilliant jockey,” he said.

“Obviously he won the Derby in 1981 at the age of 19 and won the Derby two more times, but he had the most sympathetic pair of hands as a rider. He was a real horseman and was good on the most difficult of horses.

“We worked there together for seven years.”

The top-class miler Zilzal was another major Swinburn winner, with their successes including the Sussex Stakes and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.

“Not many people could have ridden Zilzal,” Fanshawe said.

“He was a brilliant horse, but had a fiery nature. Walter was brilliant on those sort of horses.

“His big-race record would stand comparison to anyone.”

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