Pele was great. As was George Best. And Lester Piggott.
But, in recent years, the word has been debased. Sports fans of today, and the media, are too ready to call a good footballer great. Or describe a decent goal in the same way.
But I have no concern about calling Pat Eddery a great jockey. His death at the age of 63 has been announced. For my generation it is yet one more indication that we are getting on a bit.
Pat Eddery was a favourite jockey of mine for many years.
You mentioned his name in the name breath as Lester Piggott, Joe Mercer and Willie Carson. And nobody argued with that. Nor should they.
The stats tell you that Eddery was champion flat jockey 11 times, the same number as the greatest, Lester Piggott. But that merely scratches the surface. He was one of the greatest of horseman.
Every one of a certain age has their favourite high profile win by Pat Eddery. For many it’s his triumph aboard Dancing Brave in the 1984 Prix De l’Arc de Triomphe – a race he won four times. Watch that race below and marvel at how Eddery delivers the horse late, and with perfect timing. Spine-tingling.
For others it is one of his three Derby wins. The one I always remember, for I was there, came in 1975 when he rode Grundy to victory.
Eddery rode both Dancing Brave and Grundy to win the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. Radetsky and Persian Heights were two of my favourite Eddery ridden horses. They were among his three winning rides in the St. James’s Palace Stakes.
What I liked most about Pat Eddery was that he possessed something I still value in a jockey today. Honesty. He gave punters a fair chance of landing a winner, or making some placed profit. He treated every ride the same. He put every horse in with a chance of winning, even when the thoroughbred in question seemingly had no chance.
His passing is being mourned by the extended Eddery family and by the racing fraternity.
Lizzie Hughes, wife of Richard, said: “Pat was Richard’s inspiration to come to England in the first place and continued to be throughout his career.”
Trainer Mick Channon said: “Trying to focus on the good times I had with Pat Eddery but all there is is immense sadness at his passing. One of the all time greats.”
Jump jockey AP McCoy said: “Very sad news to hear of the passing of Pat Eddery. A true genius in the saddle.”
Steve Drowne said: “So sad to hear the passing of Pat Eddery. A jockey a lot of us aspired to be… but could never be.”
In the weighing room he was known simply as ‘God.’ And with good reason.
I’m glad I was alive to see Pat Eddery ride.