Goodbye, Pat Eddery. Sad end to a long, slow slide for one of the greats. Daring and definitive in the saddle, flawed and fragile out of it, the 63-year-old died Tuesday. Alcoholism. His daughter, Natasha, blamed alcoholism on Instagram, she didn’t sugarcoat it. Tough loss. Tough post.
Watching Pebbles win the Breeders’ Cup at Aqueduct, going from the outside to the inside before the first turn, then riding like he was filling squares on a Sunday crossword puzzle, sliding through on the rail…it’s hard to fathom how Eddery had lost his way. He knew the way that day – and all his days as a jockey – like he was pulled by a magnet. When he retired, he never found his way again.
I didn’t know him, just knew of him, knew of his exploits, knew of his rides – taking a pull on Dancing Brave in the Arc, maneuvering Pebbles like he had never been stopped before, stalking on Grundy and swiping Bustino and so many others. Mastering an unusual style – flicking his whip left-handed, light hold, bumping – but one that delivered time and again, Eddery won 11 championships, 14 British classics and 4,632 races.
Retiring from riding in 2003, Eddery turned to training, winning the Gran Criterium in Italy but slowly faded from the limelight. Every jockey eventually retires, it can be a quiet, lonely place once you do. Some deal with it, some can’t deal with it. Being good at riding races doesn’t mean you’re good at living life. I’ve seen friends struggle with the loss, unable to find another foothold, I’ve seen many turn to alcohol, drugs, any tonic they can find for their afternoon rush. I laugh when I hear a retiring jockey say he doesn’t know how he’ll replace the rush of riding races. Oh, you won’t. You won’t ever replace it. That’s the wrong quest. You just need to find somewhere to feel at home again, somewhere to feel at peace, because you’ll never feel that rush again. Pat Eddery never did.