jockey michael roberts aboard mtoto
jockey michael roberts aboard mtoto

Michael Roberts aboard Mtoto

(Painting : Field Gallery)


A good deal of dross is talked about jockeys, and how long or short they ride. It isn’t worth a fig.

People forget, Lester Piggott won his first three English Derby’s with his stirrup leathers about the conventional length. He won the next six with his knees more or less tucked under his chin. Lester won all his English Derby’s because of his good hands. The question shouldn’t be “short or long”, as though it’s a matter of mathematical certitude. It’s more a question of balance. Above all, does the jockey have hands?

The Tiger Wrights and the Charlie Barendses of the old world, rode longer, and used their legs. But the modern jockey, invariably perched with his feet on the dashboard, only has his hands.

Michael Roberts was as effective a master of his trade as this country’s known. He didn’t only take home 12 domestic titles: he also taught the British how to ride. Yet you’d never have styled him as picture of elegance; his was more a study in vigour and pumping arms that literally carried horses to the line. The one horse with whom he enjoyed a long and happy association, was the great Sentinel, born and raised right here at Hartford, whose 30 victories made him the winning-most racehorse of the past 40 years. Until Hear The Drums came along. Sentinel of course, never needed to be carried to the line. He always did it for his jockeys.

Our present Champion rider, Andrew Fortune, has hands the way Mercury, messenger of the gods, had legs. His horses travel on gossamer threads, and his rides on our man, Hear The Drums, who bids to stand alone as the winning-most runner in history on 9th July, have all been lovely essays in horsemanship.