Aubrey Brabazon, Irish jockey,
died on September 30 aged 76. He was born on January 7,1920.
associated with the post-war Cheltenham triumphs of Cottage Rake and
Hatton's Grace, Aubrey Brabazon developed from top-flight racing jockey
into one of the best-loved 'characters' in Irish racing. Bloodstock
agent, motor racing driver, boxer, all-round sportsman and renowned
raconteur, 'The Brab' became a legend in his own lifetime. Nobody on
the Irish Turf has ever combined such racing accomplishments with the
aptitude to capture those triumphs and disasters so entertainingly on
paper. His love of life, his endearing charm and mischievous humour
shine from every page, without ever quite concealing the tactical brain
and will to win that won him renown. Too diplomatic or too diffident,
to publish in his lifetime, 'The Brab' simply 'lived and loved and laughed
and left.' This is how he will be remembered.
Times 3rd October 1996
was a jockey blessed with perfect hands, superb balance in the saddle,
and an uncanny mastery of tactics in a race. But, above all, he fused
this talent and understanding into a rapport with his mounts, and this
was nowhere better demonstrated than with Cottage Rake and Hatton's
Grace - both trained by Vincent O'Brien - which he rode to win three
Cheltenham Gold Cups and two Champion Hurdles respectively.
Through their joint exploits, which made racing history and first established
the potency of the Irish challenge at the season's greatest National
Hunt meeting at Cheltenham, their rider became a legend in his native
land, known simply as "the Brab". Such was the fame of his
deeds that they even gave rise to verse:
up, the moneys down, - the frightened bookies quake, - come on, my lads,
and give a cheer, - 'Begod, tis Cottage Rake"
Yet the sequence
of success had an unlikely genesis. Cottage Rake, a nine-year-old, came
to Cheltenham in 1948 with -only one previous win over fences, and had
fallen in the Leopardstown Chase immediately proceeding the Cheltenham
Gold Cup. O'Brien, also on his way to becoming a legend, and Brabazon,
were so nervous before the big event that they had to stiffen their
resolve with a large port and brandy at the bar, despite the rider being
clad in his silks and weighed out for the race.
Cottage Rake started at odds of 10-1, which beforehand seemed a realistic
assessment of his chance of taking National Hunt racing's crown of crowns.
But the reality was different, approaching the first fence he took the
lead. Then the better-fancied Happy Home, owned by Miss Dorothy Paget
and ridden by another outstanding Irish jockey, Martin Malony, out jumped
watching from this point, saw Happy Home's prodigious leap, and started
back to the unsaddling enclosure gloomily assuming Cottage Rake was
beaten. But he had reckoned without Brabazon's coolness and skill in
the saddle. Cottage Rake overtook Happy Home on the stiff uphill run-in
and won by a length and a half without his rider ever touching him with
was born at the Curragh. His earliest riding experience was gained with
his father, Cecil, who ran a successful mixed training yard, and with
J.T.Rogers. His first winner came at the age of 15 on Queen Christina
at Phoenix Park and in January 1944 he first rode for Vincent O'Brien.
which was to bear such fruit, was successful again, after the first
Gold Cup victory, when Cottage Rake and Brabazon were un-beaten throughout
the whole of the next season. They triumphed in the important Emblem
Chase at Manchester, in the prestigious King George VI Chase at Kempton
Park on the day after Boxing Day 1948, and then once more, this time
at odds-on, in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
later admitted, was a hard won victory, but the third Gold Cup in 1950
saw Cottage Rake, again odds-on, a 10-length winner, Brabazon having
made a vital tactical decision and unexpectedly taken up the running
four fences from home. This move had completely surprised his old adversary,
Martin Malony, who was able to do no more than trail in second.
Brabazon's other hero, was a completely different sort of horse from
Cottage Rake. Although he had been bought for only 18 guineas and looked
unprepossessing, the crowd adored him - as well they might, for he won
three Champion Hurdles, two of them, in 1949 and 1950, superbly ridden
by Brabazon, Brabazon later recalled his "old pal", "We
didn't know too much about him the first year, but there was no fluke
about any of his Champion Hurdle wins."
The jumps apart,
Brabazon was also a great practitioner on the Flat. In 1948 he captured
the Irish Oaks for the Aga Khan, which prompted an amusing recollection
from him: "The Aga was not at the Curragh so when Masaka beat the
Aly Khan's Amina by a length, the Aly Khan still had to lead in the
winner. Since he'd had £500 on Amina he was muttering a few unrepeatables
under his breath as he tried to smile for the photographers."
won the Irish 2,000 guineas on Mighty Ocean in .1950 and in 1946 he
had shared the Irish jockeys' championship with his old rival and friend,
Martin Malony with 30 successes apiece. Altogether, in Ireland alone
under both sets of rules he rode 406 winners.
In 1961 he took
out a trainer's licence, his best horse being My Kuda who took the 1966
Ulster Harp Derby and was placed at Royal Ascot and in the Goodwood
Cup. Brabazon was also a former director of the Curragh Bloodstock Agency
and in 1983 was made an honorary member of the Irish National Hunt Steeple-chase
as a jockey apart, Brabazon is warmly remembered both in Ireland and
by the racing fraternity in this country as a thorough-going gentleman.
He leaves his
widow, Ethne, four sons and three daughters.