Tom O’Ryan, the much-admired journalist and broadcaster, has died at the age of 61. He had been battling cancer.
A son of Champion Hurdle-winning rider Bobby, O’Ryan initially followed in his father’s footsteps, beginning his apprenticeship with Malton trainer Pat Rohan.
After notching over 60 winners, including for the likes of Peter Easterby, he was forced to quit the saddle in the 1980s due to issues with his weight.
With his jockey days behind him, O’Ryan went on to forge a career as an award-winning journalist and broadcaster despite little previous experience. After a stint with Raceform, he went on to become a journalist for the Racing Post as their northern correspondent, his connections in the weighing-room proving invaluable.
His knowledge and passion shone through in his new role and his efforts were rewarded in 2002 when he was voted Journalist of the Year by the Horserace Writers and Photographers’ Association.
Once Racing UK entered the fray in 2004, O’Ryan discovered yet another talent as a broadcaster and he had been a regular on the channel over the past 12 years.
Away from the media, O’Ryan was well-known as a work-rider and jockeys’ mentor at Richard Fahey’s yard in Malton. His touch with apprentices was impressive considering no less than three champion apprentices have emerged from Musley Bank, including Paul Hanagan, who went on to become champion jockey in 2010 and successfully defended his title a year later.
In May 2013, O’Ryan was involved in a freak accident at his home in Brawby near Malton, when a flying fence post struck him in the back as he was cutting the grass. It left him in intensive care at Hull Royal Infirmary with a broken pelvis, two fractured vertebrae and internal bleeding. Four months on, and he was back at work performing his broadcast duties on Racing UK.
He lived, ate and breathed his racing and would do anything for anybody
Group 1-winning trainer Fahey passed the news of O’Ryan’s passing on social media and described his dear friend as the “voice of the north”.
“Tom was a doer and a grafter and would never say no to anything,” reflected Fahey. “He lived, ate and breathed his racing and would do anything for anybody.
“He was greatly respected by everybody and will be sadly missed.”
Ebor-winning apprentice jockey Adam McNamara, who has been under the tutelage of O’Ryan while learning his trade at Musley Bank, took to twitter to pay tribute.
He said: “Can’t put into words how much I will miss Tom O’Ryan. He was a true gentleman, horseman, a great mentor, but most importantly a good friend.”
O’Ryan is survived by his wife Wendy and brother Robin, who is Fahey’s assistant.