Irish jockey legend, Royal Ascot winner and ‘brilliant character’ George McGrath dies aged 79

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IRISH jockey legend and ‘brilliant character’ George McGrath has sadly died at the age of 79.

The two-time Flat champion jockey died peacefully at his home on Tuesday, surrounded by his loving family.

The pinnacle of his fabled career came with victory aboard Weavers’ Hall in the 1973 Irish Derby. Best known in the saddle for his fruitful association with leading trainer Seamus McGrath, he also served as a starter in the UAE for several years after retiring from race-riding.

He won the Irish 2000 Guineas the following year on Flurry Glen and again ten years later on Sadler’s Wells.

That horse kickstarted arguably racing’s greatest breeding line, culminating in Frankel and his progeny today.

From Sadler’s Wells, himself a son of the legendary Northern Dancer, came Galileo, the stallion who set the bar for all others.

Galileo was sire to Frankel, who looks like possibly eclipsing the astonishing records – and money-making ability – of the late Galileo.

McGrath, who was from County Dublin and champion jockey in 1961 and 1962, also had a winner in the 1980 Windsor Castle Stakes at Royal Ascot on Cooliney Prince.

Trainer and former jockey Jimmy Coogan hailed McGrath as ‘one of the good guys.

While fellow former rider Benji Coogan said he was a ‘brilliant character’.

McGrath is survived by wife Allie and his three children, Jo-Anna, Julie and George.

Racing fans paid tribute to a true character of the Irish scene online.

McGrath served his apprenticeship with Meath trainer Kevin Kerr, quickly making an impact when registering eight winners from just 39 rides in 1960. He was crowned champion apprentice twice, in 1961 and 1962.

One said: “George McGrath, legend of Irish racing and twice champion jockey has sadly passed.”

While another posted: “Sad to hear the passing of George McGrath a great jockey & a lovely gentleman.

“He fulfilled his lifelong ambition winning 73 Irish Derby on Weavers’ Hall. Deepest sympathy to his family and friends.”

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