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Last Updated: Saturday, 5 November 2005, 15:43 GMT
Riding high
Cornelius Lysaght
By Cornelius Lysaght
BBC racing correspondent

The baby-faced teenager was a familiar sight beetling around the muddy lanes of County Kildare in his first car.

Regardless of a growing reputation gained on the gallops of the nearby Curragh racing centre, trainers had little difficulty supporting the youngster.

With a refreshingly polite and cheerful demeanour, on top of dazzling skills in the saddle, they simply wanted him to succeed.

Jamie Spencer (right) receives the trophy from former champion Kevin Darley

And, a decade later, as he adds the British champion jockeys' title on Saturday to the one already gained in Ireland, Jamie Spencer was indeed a winning tip.

"If you passed him in the road, he would always be waving happily," recalled one trainer, "or winding down the window of his car for a chat.

"Some young fellows riding a few winners become awful cocky, but not Jamie."

Jamie Spencer was born in June 1980 and raised amongst the lush green pastures of Ireland's premier horse country in County Tipperary.

Wherever you look there are horses, and on their family farm, his late father George prepared the 1963 Champion Hurdler Winning Fair.

Top flat jockeys
Jamie Spencer - 162 winners
Seb Sanders - 141
Richard Hughes - 121
Ryan Moore - 119
Robert Winston - 115
Frankie Dettori - 87
Kieren Fallon - 63
Close by is the world-famous Coolmore Stud, owned by John Magnier (Spencer's godfather) and, just down the road, in the village of Golden, ex-jump jockey Tommy Stack trains.

It was Stack who ensured that the precocious talent, already recognised within Ireland's racing circles, received a wider airing.

Amidst much eyebrow-raising, he booked the 17-year-old, still a fairly raw apprentice, to partner the notoriously tricky filly Tarascon in the Irish 1,000 Guineas of 1998.

In a story line that might have come straight from Hollywood, she behaved well at the stalls (for once), and the pair won it. Jamie Spencer was front page news.

From thereonin, with expectations high, he delivered much, both in Flat races and less often over hurdles, constantly developing strength and poise.

Jamie Spencer rides Hazyview to victory
Spencer rides Hazyview to victory at Windsor in June

And when in 2004, the jockey signed a contract with John Magnier and his number one trainer Aidan O'Brien, a place amongst the loftiest ranks of his profession seemed assured.

Ultimately, however, it didn't really work out, and with the pressure at boiling point, Spencer shocked the sport by suddenly resigning.

Many thought him barmy to quit the top job. Now married to glamorous TV presenter Emma Ramsden, he started the new season as a freelance, back in Britain, "with no contacts really".

However, they didn't take long to forge, and the rest, as they say, is history.

True, injury ensured that the title challenges of Frankie Dettori and Robert Winston were seen off, but such was the relentless pace set by the new champion, they might have struggled anyway.

Seb Sanders turned out to be the sole serious challenger, but from some way before the finishing line, he failed to land a blow.

Nominating the victory of Goodricke in the Haydock Sprint Cup as the overall highlight, a strikingly laid-back Spencer summed up the season modestly:

"I am just happy to be doing well. Nobody wants to be second best, and I just want to be as good as I can, and be content with life. I can honestly say that I have never felt so good," he said.

With Dettori and Winston raring to go again next year, the fight to retain the championship will be tough.

But the once baby-faced teenager has demonstrated this year that he is more than man enough to see them off.


SEE ALSO
David Junior wins Champion Stakes
15 Oct 05 |  Horse Racing
Goodricke wins Haydock Sprint Cup
03 Sep 05 |  Horse Racing
Winston recovers from jaw surgery
08 Aug 05 |  Horse Racing
Jamie Spencer
06 Feb 05 |  Horse Racing


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