Thursday, 16 June 2022

Pat Taaffe

 

Patrick 'Pat' Taaffe, who died at the age of 62 in 1992, after undergoing a heart transplant the previous year, will always be remembered as the man who rode Arkle, arguably the greatest steeplechaser of all time. At the Cheltenham Festival, Taaffe and Arkle won the RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase in 1963, followed by the Cheltenham Gold Cup three years running, in 1964, 1965 and 1966. However, while Arkle was, undoubtedly, brilliant, his reputation owed much to the prodigious talent of his regular partner.


Despite standing 6' 2" tall, Taaffe was a consummate horseman, blessed with an innate ability to present a horse at a steeplechase fence. All told, he rode 25 winners at the Cheltenham Festival – all

bar two over the larger obstacles – and remains the fourth most successful jockey of all time, behind Ruby Walsh, Barry Geraghty and Tony McCoy.


Arkle aside, Taaffe also won the RSA Insurance Novices' Chase on Coneyburrow in 1953, Solfen in 1960, Grallagh Cnoc in 1961 and Proud Tarquin in 1970 and the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Fort Leney in 1968; he remains the leading jockey in the history of both races, with five and four wins, respectively. Alongside Barry Geraghty, Taaffe also remains joint leading jockey in the history of the Queen Mother Champion Chase, or the National Hunt Two-Mile Champion Chase, as the race was known until 1980. He recorded back-to-back victories on Fortia in 1960 and 1961, followed by Ben Stack in 1964, Flyingbolt in 1966 amd Straight Fort in 1970. Over the smaller obstacles at the Festival, Taaffe won a division of the Gloucestershire Hurdle, now the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, twice, on Stroller in 1954 and Flyingbolt in 1964.