Jockey Noel Fehily will retire from race riding today, Saturday, at Newbury at the age of 43. He has had an impressive career as a jockey, during which time he rode 477 winners in the last five seasons alone, and a remarkable 976 placed horses. But health issues have influenced his decision to retire.
Born in Ireland in 1975, the son of a Cork farmer, he didn’t have racing in his blood. He started out riding on the point-to-point circuit in Ireland and moved to the United Kingdom in 1998, when he was already in his early twenties.
He rode for Charlie Mann, for whom he won on Ivy Boy in 1998, and clocked up 13 winners in that first season. The following season he had 16 winners and turned professional in 2000.In 2005 he was appointed second jockey for Jonjo O’Neill whilst also riding several horses for Charlie Mann.
It was another three years before his really made his mark, winning his first Group/Grade One race riding the Charlie Mann-trained ‘Air Force One’ to victory in the Champion Novice Chase at Punchestown in 2008.
Noel Fehily ended an impressive 2008/09 season with 89 winners in Great Britain, finishing fourth in the race for the Champion Jockey title, whilst amassing overall prize money of just over £900,000. The ensuing 2010-11 season was a poor one for him through injuries ranging from several shoulder problems, a broken leg and wrist problems.
He became first jockey to Emma Lavelle in 2012 and achieved a 21 per cent winning strike rate aboard her horses. He also rode several horses for Paul Nicholls, mainly when Ruby Walsh was forced to miss action, with a high level of success.
But he recovered to ride more than 100 winners in a single campaign in Great Britain. His total of 127 winners in Great Britain with a strike rate of 21 per cent was without doubt his most successful campaign, as he also accumulated total prize money of over £1 million for the first time.
Noel Fehily won more than £1.5million in total prizes the following season, despite only having 85 winners. He has achieved more than that amount again this season and is currently in fourth place in the Champion Jockey title race with 118 winners, whilst he has also ridden more than 100 second places.
His most recent winner in a Group One race was on the Nicky Henderson trained Buveur D’air in a top novices hurdle at the Aintree Grand National festival at the start of April. Altogether he has ridden more than 1,000 winners in Britain during almost 20 years.
Off the track, Fehily married his wife Natasha in County Cork in 2007 and they have since had a daughter, Niamh, who was born in 2012. Health issues have affected him this season, including appendix surgery in January which has had its complications.
Despite returning to win at the Cheltenham Festival this year aboard Eglantine Du Seuil, the 43-year-old has decided to retire at the top on Saturday, when he hopes to add to his tally of winners at Newbury.