Joe Mercer OBE, one of the most celebrated British jockeys of the post-war period, passed away on Monday at the age of 86.
The Yorkshire-born flat racing legend, known to many fans by his nickname ‘Smokin’ Joe,’ rode over 2,810 winning horses across 36 seasons from 1947 to 1985, including the 1953 Epsom Oaks title whilst still an apprentice jockey.
Other notable wins in Group One British Classic races included the St Leger Stakes in 1965, 1974, 1980 and 1981, the 2,000 Guineas Stakes in 1971 and the 1,000 Guineas Stakes in 1974 and 1979. In recognition of his contribution to the sport of horse racing, Mercer was awarded with an OBE in 1980.
However, one of the most famous periods of his career came between 1970 and 1972, in which he rode Brigadier Gerard, securing 17 wins out of 18 races.
In a recent video posted by Racing TV, the late champion jockey discussed his fond memories of the racehorse, which led him to so many victoires in what has been described as ‘pinnacle’ of his career.
When asked what the name ‘Brigadier Gerard’ meant to him, Mercer replied: “It means an awful lot. Whenever I think about him I get excited. It was just a pleasure to have been capable of riding him and being there when he did it, and it always brings back wonderful memories.”
He continued: “I think to be associated with him was a privilege, because he was such a great horse with a tremendous character, and to do what he did was quite outstanding. There’s not too many horses who achieve 17 out of 18 wins, and 11 Group One races.”
Upon his retirement, only three jockeys had beaten Mercer’s record of 2,810 winners – Sir Gordon Richards, Lester Piggott, and Doug Smith – and only three more have done so since – Pat Eddery, Willie Carson and Frankie Dettori.
Although ending his career as a jockey, Smokin’ Joe remained active in the sport of horse racing, serving as the Racing Manager of Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, former Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Emir of Dubai, between 1987 and 2006
Source – Racing TV YouTube Channel