Throughout history, many of the best jockeys have been sons of jockeys. At Royal Ascot this year alone, the winners included Ryan Moore, Richard Hughes, William Buick, Frankie Dettori and Nicky Mackay, all sons of formerly successful jockeys.
It is, though, generally (and obviously) the case that the father has usually hung up his boots by the time that the son is succeeding. Across the Channel, however, one father and son combination is regularly putting on a double act, with jumps jockeys Ray and Raymond O’Brien frequently riding winners on the same programme.
The most recent instance of a family double came on Saturday on Auteuil’s feature raceday, where O’Brien senior rode Take Over Sivola to win the Prix Du Nouveau Cercle De L’Union steeplechase and O’Brien jr (who rides as Raymond Lee O’Brien to avoid confusion) partnered Reflexion to victory in the Prix Hardatit, a Listed handicap hurdle – a race in which his 43-year-old father rode the runner-up.
Ray O’Brien is, as his name suggests, Irish, but he has spent the bulk of his riding career in France so, while that country has become home-from-home for him, his son was raised there. Raymond O’Brien has only been race-riding for a couple of years and is already tipped to become one of France’s leading jumps riders.
His father last tasted Grade 1 glory in 2007, when he rode Top Of The Sky to win the Prix Maurice Gillois Steeple Chase at Auteuil, and it surely won’t be long before his son follows suit.
The feature race on Auteuil’s programme was, of course, the Grande Course des Haies d’Auteuil, generally regarded as the French Champion Hurdle. This was also won by a rider bred for the job: Ruby Walsh took over from his sister Katie on the admirable Willie Mullins-trained Thousand Stars (because French rules stipulated that amateurs cannot ride in the race) and duly landed a cross-channel Champion Hurdle double, following up his win at Cheltenham in March on the same stable’s Hurricane Fly.
That victory had enabled Ruby to win a race in which his father Ted, generally regarded as one of Ireland’s greatest amateur riders ever, had gone close: Ted rode Daring Run to finish third to Sea Pigeon and Pollardstown in a vintage Champion Hurdle in 1981.