Paul Carberry – one of the finest and most stylish jump jockeys of a generation – has opted to retire from race riding following advice from well-regarded orthopaedic specialist, Dr Paddy Kenny. This unexpected development comes on the back of a sustained 11-month absence from competitive action after a first fence fall from the Noel Meade-trained Rich Coast at Listowel in September, which left him with a broken femur.
It was supposed to keep him off for just four months but then in January, the two-time champion jockey fractured the same left leg again after a fall while riding near his home in County Meath, preventing him from riding at this year’s Cheltenham Festival.
That second fall meant the leg has struggled to get up to strength and when he met with Dr Kenny on Tuesday, was advised that the best route of action going forward would be not to make a comeback.
“He advised me to stop. My leg’s not strong enough. I feel gutted,” said Carberry.
The 42-year-old has enjoyed a highly distinguished career, the first of nearly 1,600 winners coming aboard Petronelli at Leopardstown in 1990 for trainer Jim Bolger. Nine years later, he was to triumph on the grandest stage of them all for his father Tommy Carberry in the Martell Grand National aboard Bobbyjo.
The Dublin-born rider then went on to secure two back-to-back jump jockeys’ championships in Ireland between 2002 and 2003, on each occasion breaking the century mark of winners.
Plenty of those winners and the rest that followed came as stable jockey to Meade, an association which lasted right up until the final day. The duo secured an almost endless list of Graded winners over a 25-year period, which included the likes of Strong Run, Harbour Pilot and Supreme Novices’ Hurdle hero Sausalito Bay, to name but a few.
But one Meade horse that Carberry feels is the best he has ever sat on was enigmatic five-time Grade 1-winner, Harchibald. In the silks of owner Des Sharkey, the son of Perugino travelled strongly in top 2m events on both sides of the Irish Sea, rarely coming off the bridle to beat his opponents. With Carberry looking stylish and menacing in the saddle, the pair’s most notable victories included two Fighting Fifth hurdles and two Christmas Hurdles at Kempton Park.
However, the performance which sticks most in the memory came in defeat to Hardy Eustace in the 2005 Champion Hurdle. The gelding cruised up alongside the winner after the final flight, but when asked by Carberry in the last 50 yards, didn’t find what was expected to go past his rival.
Despite that, the festival proved fruitful for Carberry over the years, where he tasted no fewer than 14 winners. His first came in the Champion Bumper in 1993 aboard Rhythm Section and his penultimate success coming in the 2013 World Hurdle, when he rode a typically patient yet well-timed race on the Charles Byrnes-trained, Solwhit.
Away from Cheltenham, one of Carberry’s most remarkable performances in the saddle came in the Welsh National, when he scored aboard Monbeg Dude for trainer Michael Scudamore.
He could do things very few riders can do and i am not sure there are many if any other riders who would have won on Mondeg Dude that day
He stepped in for the ride as third choice jockey but rode a patient race in line with the horses running style, coming with a well-timed run to lead at the last. It was a performance in the saddle that Scudamore himself could scarcely believe given how the race went.
“Afterwards all I can remember Paul saying was that it took him a circuit to get to know the horse but thought he would win with a circuit to go,” reflected Scudamore.
“It was an unbelievable ride from a man who was a genius on a horse. He could do things very few riders can do and I am not sure there are many if any other riders who would have won on Mondeg Dude that day.”
The last few of his big-race triumphs came for the powerful Gigginstown House Stud governed by Ryanair boss, Michael O’Leary. The final of his Grade 1 successes came in the famous maroon and white silks on none other than reigning Cheltenham Gold Cup hero, Don Cossack for long-time friend and trainer, Gordon Elliott.
Tributes have been pouring in on social media to reflect on Carberry’s brilliant career, whose next move in the sport for now remains undecided. His sister Nina will no doubt continue the Carberry riding legacy, herself one of the finest amateur’s anywhere.