Barry Geraghty announces retirement from glorious race-riding career aged 40

One of the most glittering riding careers in the history of Irish and UK jump racing is over after Barry Geraghty announced his retirement late on Saturday night. 

"A big thank you to my family, friends and everyone who has supported me over the last 24 years," he tweeted at 11pm. "Tonight I am happy to say I am announcing my retirement. I’ve been blessed to have had a wonderful career and I’m looking to what the future holds."

Geraghty's announcement means his last act in the saddle was his epic week in the Cotswolds last March, when he farmed five wins from just 11 rides to take his final tally at the Cheltenham Festival to a mammoth 43. A titan of the modern weighing room, his career spanned 23 years, but he hadn't ridden since jump racing resumed last month following the easing of the coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

The 40-year-old's final ride was a winning one, when he guided the Willie Mullins-trained Saint Roi to victory in the Randox Health County Hurdle for JP McManus, with whom he has been so closely affiliated in recent years and for whom he steered Epatante to Champion Hurdle succees on the opening day of the meeting.

Second to him in the County was Aramon, whose rider Paul Townend ultimately denied him a third leading rider award at the festival on countback after Al Boum Photo's Gold Cup win.

However, Geraghty's overall record at the four-day gala is topped only by his old ally Ruby Walsh, who checked out with 59. Sir Anthony McCoy, his predecessor as McManus's first choice rider, is next best on 31. 

Likewise, Geraghty's exquisite big-race prowess is also second only to Walsh. In total, he amassed 121 Grade 1s, including two Gold Cups aboard Kicking King (2005) and Bobs Worth (2013), four Champion Hurdles on Punjabi (2009), Jezki (2014), Buveur D'Air (2018) and Epatante, plus five Queen Mother Champion Chases on Moscow Flyer (2004 & 2005), Big Zeb (2010), Finian's Rainbow (2012) and Sprinter Sacre (2013).

His stunning roll of honour in jump racing's marquee events is underscored by his Grand National triumph on the Jimmy Mangan-trained Monty's Pass at Aintree in 2003, when the rider was just 23 years of age. 

Geraghty succeeded McCoy as McManus's retained rider in 2015, having previously enjoyed spectacular stints as first choice jockey for Nicky Henderson and Jessica Harrington. 

His final Grade 1 success came when he coaxed Henderson's Champ to an utterly spellbinding last-gasp victory in the RSA Chase. Most of ten lengths down at the final fence, Geraghty galvanised a barely credible burst of acceleration from his quirky mount, inspiring a thrilling spectacle as they scooted by the wilting Monalee and Allaho late on to win with some unlikely swagger. 

In all, he partnered 1,920 winners over jumps, a figure that sees him sign off in fourth place on the list of jump racing's most successful riders of all time, behind only McCoy, Walsh and Richard Johnson. 

Geraghty, crowned champion jockey in Ireland in 2000 and 2004, missed the beginning of last season after breaking both the tibia and fibula above his right ankle when Peregrine Run fell three-out in the Topham Chase at Aintree. His right leg was put in a frame for 13 weeks, and he returned in October after six months off.

What proved to be his final campaign in Ireland yielded just two winners, but he snared 25 in Britain and rolled back the years to bring the house down at Cheltenham in March. The Covid-19 pandemic promptly intervened and prevented him adding to his stellar record. 

He went on to net his first Grade 1 win aboard Alexander Banquet for Mullins in the 1999 Drinmore Chase. Weeks earlier, in a Punchestown maiden hurdle, he had begun what would become a storied association with Moscow Flyer.

Geraghty went on to guide Harrington's brilliant chaser to a breakthrough Cheltenham Festival victory in the 2002 Arkle Trophy.

A year later, they soared to an emphatic seven-length success in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. The duo went separate ways four-out in 2004, before making amends by easily defeating old foes Well Chief and Azertyuiop in 2005.

In also partnering Sprinter Sacre to a 19-length demolition of Sizing Europe in 2013, Geraghty had the privilege of riding two of the sport's most iconic two-mile chasers of modern times, while his Queen Mother haul saw him join Pat Taaffe as the joint-most successful rider in the race. He also shares that distinction in the Champion Hurdle with Walsh and Tim Molony.

With two Stayers' Hurdles courtesy of the Jonjo O'Neill duo Iris's Gift (2004) and More Of That (2014), two King George VI Chases on Kicking King (2004 & 2005), four Tingle Creeks (Moscow Flyer in 2003 and 2004, Sprinter Sacre in 2012 and Defi Du Seuil in 2019), as well as an Irish Grand National on O'Neill's Shutthefrontdoor in 2014, Geraghty's big-race haul is splendidly complete. The Galway Plate was about the only event on his to-do list to elude him.

He and Walsh are the only two riders to ride more than a century of Grade 1 winners as per the modern criteria.

Crowned leading rider at the festival in 2003 and 2012, Geraghty's five wins in 2003 put him in an elite group of three to have ridden that many winners when it was a three-day affair. McCoy and Jamie Osborne are the other two.

By missing the festival in 2017, his sequence of riding a winner at every festival since 2002 was broken. Geraghty promptly got back in the groove with a brace there in 2018 and 2019, before returning for one last dance in March. It was quite the swansong.