IT WAS unfortunate to read of the passing of one of the greats of Irish racing last week as Francis Flood passed, aged 86.
By all accounts, the Wicklow man was a fantastic amateur jockey but he went on to have greater success as a National Hunt trainer, winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup with Glencarrig Lady in 1972.
He was a big figure in Ireland. The word ‘legend’ gets used too often these days but that’s what Flood was, a real racing man who had success as both a jockey and a trainer.
I didn’t know him personally – I’m probably too young to have crossed paths with him – but he was an old fashioned trainer who knew more about the animal than the business side of things.
People say these types of legends will never be seen again, and that’s because there’s a big difference in the new-age trainers these days.
When you train horses now you have to be a businessman as well as a trainer because there’s a lot more to it than dealing with the animal.
Modern trainers are still great trainers, but it’s more of a number’s game now, they have to be more focussed on the Public Relations side of the game now.
Flood was very shrewd, very knowledgeable about his horses; it’s just unfortunate that his type is indeed a dying breed. May he rest in peace.
Meanwhile, Jonjo O’Neill reached an amazing milestone last week when saddling his 2,000th winner with Centuro at Uttoxeter.
Congrats, @JonjoONeill! It's 2000 jumps winners and counting after a dramatic success at @UttoxeterRaces earlier... https://t.co/Fd0GaME5Bi
— At The Races (@AtTheRaces) October 13, 2016
He might have been a bit lucky on the day, but luck has a big say in this game and I don’t think anyone would begrudge Jonjo that moment because he’s a great ambassador for our sport.
At 64, he’s been involved in racing his whole life as a jockey and a trainer – a winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup as both – and he’s always been there for young jockeys coming through, myself included.
He helped me out enormously when I began taking rides down south and I’m privileged to have ridden a few of those 2,000 winners.
But you only have to look at his relationship with AP McCoy to know how good a trainer he is.
AP was already a champion jockey before he started working so closely with O’Neill, but I think he became much better from riding for Jonjo, and the same goes for Richard Johnson.
Jonjo just installs that confidence in people in perhaps that’s a secret to his success.
Speaking of great trainers, I’d just like to congratulate Aidan O'Brien on his huge achievement in saddling the winner, second and third horse home in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe earlier this month.
He’s had one-two-threes in Classics before, but that was arguably his biggest ever achievement with it being in Europe’s top flat racing prize.
He’s taking things to the next level year after year and 2016 has been special for him, given the absurd number of winners her has amassed throughout the year.