We are delighted to bring you the BIG Interview with former Jockey Graham Bradley, Graham was at the top of his game in the 1980’s when winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup amongst the many big races he rode in & ended up in the winners enclosure.
In this interview we talk about his desire to be a jockey, the big winners & much more…..
What is your earliest memory of horse racing?
My 1st memory was Red Rum winning his 1st Grand National at Aintree.
Having been born in Wetherby, did you go to a lot of racing in your youth?
Yes, I was born in Wetherby and used to go to the races there as often as possible from the age of 12.
When did you first become interested in horse racing?
I was born in 1960 and my father was a trainer for Jack Hanson at Sicklinghall near Wetherby. I became very interested in racing straight away, I was about 6 years old.
Did you always want to be a jockey or did you have another career in mind when you were at school?
I always wanted to be a jockey from the age of 6. I rode out for Tommy Shedden on weekends and went down to Newmarket a few times when I was on holiday to work for Michael Jarvis.
My father Norman knew his head lad John Booth and I rode work with Lester Piggott, Bruce Raymond and Steve Eccles.
I understand that you did a bit of riding out in the summer holidays for Eric Collingwood & Michael Jarvis, along with work riding for Tommy Sheldon, would you say this was a good learning experience prior to becoming a conditional Jockey?
Riding out for Tommy Shedden, Eric Collingwood and Mick Jarvis was priceless and I learnt a lot.
Is it true your first public ride was for Steve Nesbitt on Sweet Slievenamon at Redcar in 1977 & your father got you the ride?
Yes, my father Norman got me my 1st ride was when I was a 16yr old amateur on his friend Steve Nesbitt’s horse Sweet Slievenamon at Redcar.
Frazer Hines was supposed to ride it and Peter Scudamore rode in that race.
From my research, your first trainer was Arthur Stephenson, how was Arthur as a trainer & a man?
Arthur Stephenson was an absolute gentleman and a great trainer. The staff and jockeys there were world class.
Would it be fair to say that, the legendary Tommy Stack was a mentor when you were starting out as a Jockey?
Tommy Stack was a brilliant jockey and a fabulous mentor. I admired him so much and his advice was world class.
What was the best piece of advice Tommy Stack gave you?
Tommy Stack rode a few winners for my dad and it was him who advised me to go and work for WA Stephenson. He told me all about balance, rhythm, confidence and timing.
After a couple of years, you headed to Tony Dickinson’s yard & landed your first winner for him on Talon, can you remember how many previous rides you had before landing the winner?
I started off as an amateur at WA Stephenson’s and only had a few moderate rides. My father got me the job at Tony Dickinson’s because he knew him and I was 10th in line, there was 9 other jockeys there.
I finished 2nd on Talon at Chepstow a few weeks before he ran and had only had about a dozen rides before I rode my 1st winner.
Just like some of today’s jockeys, you had a weight issue in the early 80’s & had help from Austin Darragh, what did you change to manage the problem?
I went to see Doctor Austin Darragh in Ireland and he found out that my weight was affected by salt and sugar. I was advised to cut down on them. It was a wonderful result, it helped my weight big time for years.
You lost your Conditional Allowance in January 1982 on Manhattan Island & you won the Young Riders title in the same year, did you turn professional shortly after?
I was the Conditional Champion Jockey in 1982 and was 2nd on Bregawn in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. I was a professional then though and won the Cheltenham Gold Cup the next year on Bregawn – 1983.
Would you say, you reached your riding peak in the pearly to mid 1980’s?
Yes I would say my riding peak in the early 1980’s aged 22 onwards.
Bregawn was a horse that I noticed you had a lot of success with, how good was Bregawn & would you say this was the best horse you had ridden during your career?
Bregawn was a brilliant horse, I won the Hennessy Gold Cup on him and was 2nd and 1st on him in 2 Cheltenham Gold Cups.
I think Wayward Lad was probably the best horse that I ever rode & I rode some nice horses including Badsworth Boy, Kildimo, Celtic Shot, Desert Orchid, Suny Bay, Rhyme ‘N’ Reason, Sabin Du Loir, Stearsby, Floyd, Bokaro, Morley Street, Couldn’t Be Better, Senor El Betrutti, Collier Bay, French Ballerina, Royal Athlete and Cavies Clown.
Of the many BIG races that you won, Which race gave you the most satisfaction?
1983 Cheltenham Gold Cup on Bregawn.
And which race were you disappointed not to have won in your career?
I would love to have won the Grand National. I was 2nd on Suny Bay.
What was your favourite course to ride & your favourite race to ride in?
I loved riding at Wetherby and loved the Charlie Hall Memorial Chase.
Your final ride was in November 1999 partnering Ontheball to a 5 length win, was it always the plan to retire after this race?
Not really as Charlie Brooks had retired and I was 40 years old.
If you had ONE regret during your racing career, what would that be & would you change it if you had your time again?
I had no desperate regrets while riding, I loved every ride but it broke my heart when myself and Geof Harker pulled up a circuit too soon at Sedgefield in 1988, we thought we had finished the race and there was 1 more circuit to go.
We would like to thank Graham for his time, his pictures & for telling us about his journey as a jockey in the 80s & 90s…
Interview by Rich Williams
Pictures – Graham Bradley (Except Wetherby – Via Wetherby RC Twitter)
Arseonlineracing Production – Published August 2021