Mick Fitzgerald

Mick Fitzgerald  In recent years, Mick Fitzgerald has become a familiar face as a television presenter, on At The Races, Channel 4 Racing and, more recently, ITV Racing. However, before being forced to retire after breaking his neck, for a second time, in a fall from L’Ami in the 2008 Grand National, Fizgerald enjoyed a stellar career as a National Hunt jockey.

 

All in all, he rode 1,280 winners – 726 of which were for Nicky Henderson – including 14 at the Cheltenham Festival and, although he never won the jump jockeys’ championship, at the time of his retirement he was, numerically, the fifth most successful National Hunt jockey of all time. Fitzgerald had originally intended to retire at the end of the 2006/07 season, but continued riding until his Aintree mishap. His recovery was painful and slow and he finally called time on his 20-year career after taking medical advice.

 

At that time, Nicky Henderson paid tribute to him, saying, “He’s not only been a great jockey, but a great mate; very reliable, a superstar. Stable jockeys are unfashionable these days, but he’s been an exemplary one, loyal, dedicated to the whole operation, utterly professional.”

 

Fitzgerald rode his first winner, Lover’s Secret, at Ludlow in 1988, but gradually established himself in the upper echelon of National Hunt jockeys and enjoyed associations with Paul Nicholls and, of course, Nicky Henderson. His career highlights included winning the 1996 Grand National on Rough Quest, after which he told Des Lynam, “Sex us an anti-climax after this”. He was leading rider at the Cheltenham Festival twice, in 1999 – when he won the Queen Mother Champion Chase on Call Equiname, for Henderson, and the Cheltenham Gold Cup on See More Business, for Nicholls – and again in 2000.

Simon Munir and Isaac Souede

Simon Munir and Isaac Souede  Compared with the likes of J.P. McManus, Gigginstown House Stud and Rich Ricci, financiers Simon Munir and Isaac Souede are ‘small fry’ in terms of Cheltenham Festival winners, with just four victories between them. Simon Munir has owned with Nicky Henderson for several years, winning the Triumph Hurdle with Soldatino in 2010 and the Fred Winter Juvenile with Une Artiste in 2012. However, since joining forces with Frenchman Isaac Souede, the partnership has continued to grow, in terms of numbers and quality, and now has horses in training in Great Britain, Ireland and France.

On this side of the English Channel, Munir and Souede have a decent variety of horses dispersed among Nicky Henderson, Nigel Twiston Davies, Alan King, David Pipe and, most recently, Ben Pauling in Britain and Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliot in Ireland. They won the Triumph Hurdle with Peace And Co, trained by Nicky Henderson, in 2015 and the Arkle Challenge Trophy with Footpad, trained by Willie Mullins, in 2018.

The latter, who remains unbeaten over fences, including four Grade 1 wins, has yet to win beyond 2 miles 3½ furlongs but, even so, looks a potential Cheltenham Gold Cup winner in the making. Two of their other Cheltenham possibilities, Top Notch – who was only beaten a length by Yorkhill in the JLT Novices’ Chase in 2017 – and We Have A Dream, missed the Festival in 2018, but won their respective races at Sandown and Aintree, respectively, the following month and remain bright prospects for the future.

Munir and Souede may not be competing for the Leading Owner Award at the Cheltenham Festival any time soon, but their continued investment in up-and-coming young horses, not to mention their recruitment of Daryl Jacob as their retained jockey, must surely pay dividends at some point.