Harding: It’s still all surreal, honestly
BRIAN HARDING enjoyed multiple big-race wins during his time as a jockey – but few will have brought him the kind of joy that One Man did at Cheltenham back in March of 1998.
Harding came in for the ride on Gordon Richards’ popular grey after jockey Tony Dobbin, who was initially booked to take the mount, suffered an injury.
The Corkonian proved to be an able deputy, partnering One Man to a memorable success in the prestigious twomile championship race.
Twenty years on, Harding admits that it is still unbelievable to think that he was onboard one of the most-adored chasers of the modern era, on the day he finally came good at the Festival.
‘‘It’s still a bit surreal really. About a month ago, I watched it back, as it just popped up for some reason on the iPad. It’s still hard to take it in. But, obviously it came up as a spare ride from when ‘Dobbs’ got hurt. Look, I was very lucky to get on a horse like him. It was a long time ago but it was a great, great day to be a part of,’’ he said.
There were other high-profile successes across Harding’s 25-year career as a National Hunt jockey.
He steered the Ferdy Murphy-trained Granit D’Estruval to glory in the 2004 Irish Grand National, won the Mildmay Novices’ Chase aboard Gordon Richards’ Addington Boy at Aintree in 1996 and landed Newcastle’s Fighting Fifth Hurdle on Nicky Richards’ The French Furze in 2003.
The latter is his personal favourite, – when it comes to nominating his favourite horse of the past two-and-ahalf decades – helped by his long-time association, and bigrace mounts, aboard the Be My Guest gelding.
‘‘The horse that won the Irish National, I would have a lot of time for him because he nearly won a Scottish National five days later.
“He fell at the last, when upsides in front. From that point of view, what he did was unbelievable.
“Obviously, One Man was a great day. But the horse that I had a lot to do with was The French Furze. He won a Fighting Fifth Hurdle. I rode him in a Champion Hurdle and a Stayers’ Hurdle. I rode him in one of the big handicaps at Cheltenham.
“I won at Cheltenham on him on New Year’s Day 2006.
“He was quirky to start, so he had to get led-in and he was a bit of a character that way but, what a horse.
“When he retired, I think he was still rated in the 150’s maybe. He was a very good horse and I was lucky to be riding him.’’