I’m 41 in September and you can’t go on forever. I’ve missed 18 months of the last five years through injury, having broken both legs, both arms, my ribs, shoulder blade and a few other small fractures in between, the words of top jockey Barry Geraghty after announcing that he was about to hang up his riding boots and lay down his whip for the final time.
"The eight broken ribs and punctured lung in 2017 ruled me out of Cheltenham, and then the broken arm at Fairyhouse in April only 11 days after returning from the broken ribs were both tough injuries with bad timing.
"My last injury, the leg break on the eve of the 2019 Grand National at Aintree, was a real test and hard to take, it made me appreciate the importance of getting back into a scenario where I could go out on my own terms rather than being stretchered off.
"It’s not easy to come back from those injuries but I knew that if I could I had a chance of going out on my own terms, so I discussed it with my wife, Paula, and put that plan in my head early last season.
"I knew going into Cheltenham that it was going to be my last one, and that’s probably why I showed more emotion at the meeting than I had done in donkey’s years. I needed to get a winner badly and Epatante gave me the dream start in the Champion Hurdle.
"Then to go on and ride winners for the boss on Dame De Compagnie, Champ, Sire Du Berlais, and being able to make my last ever ride at a Cheltenham Festival a winning one, with Saint Roi in the County Hurdle, I couldn’t have asked to sign off on a better note. We considered calling it a day then, but I would have been sick to be on the sidelines if Aintree, Fairyhouse or Punchestown went ahead.
"As things have worked out, we’ve ended up with another three or four months to think things through and that’s helped me to confirm the decision that I want to call time on my career as a jockey.
"I’ve been able to take stock of everything, relax, enjoy the time off with Paula and our kids Síofra, Órla and Rían, and it’s given me a taste of what might lie ahead. Not having to be stuck on the roads, in and out of airports and just living life at a steadier pace has been nice.
"I’d be lying if I said I haven’t had some second thoughts, though, particularly after such a great Cheltenham, but I’m settled on it now and pleased with what I’m doing.
"I’m going to miss the buzz for sure. You can’t replace the thrill of riding horses like Epatante and Defi Du Seuil, but that’s just part of life and I’m going to have to enjoy watching them from the stands.
"JP (McManus) is obviously one person that I had to speak to about it, but I’ve only been able to do that over the phone. It was never going to be a difficult conversation as I knew JP, Noreen and all of their family would be happy for me and that they would have my best interests at heart. They have all supported me so well since taking the job.
"He knows as well as anyone how important it is to be able to go out in one piece. It’s been great riding for him and the quality of horses he has is outstanding. It was brilliant to ride five winners for him at this year’s Cheltenham Festival and try and repay him for all that he puts into our sport."
He has a great understanding of the game and could just give you a tiny nugget of information or an opinion that would help you win you a race. One example was with More Of That in the World Hurdle, when he suggested that I follow Annie Power through the race wherever she sits and he got it spot on. That was the case a lot of times on a number of different horses over the years."
Looking ahead Barry says "I’ve always kept a good few young horses here at home and I’ll keep busy working with those. I've done a lot of media work over the years which I enjoy and I've had a great relationship with Sporting Index. I’m going to be able to spend a lot more time with the family, and I'm already looking forward to Christmas Dinner!"
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