Top Jockeys at Epsom between the Wars
After sharing the Jockeys’ Championship with Steve Donoghue in 1923, when still apprenticed to Jack Jarvis, he won the title outright the following year with 106 winners. Riding for Marcel Boussac in France for most of his career, he won the Prix du Jockey-Club four times. He also bagged 14 Classic races in England, including two Oaks winners – Brulette (1931) and Why Hurry (1943) and three Derbys, riding Call Boy, pictured above (1927), Bois Roussel (1938) and Nimbus (1949).
At Ascot in 1951, he rode Supreme Court to win the inaugural running of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (known that year as the Festival of Britain Stakes).
Elliott gave up race-riding in 1953 to train for Boussac in France, but in 1958, with Boussac’s empire in decline, he returned to Newmarket to train from Machell House until retiring in 1963.
Known as ‘the head waiter’ because of his late run riding tactics, he was born in Sheffield and apprenticed to Bob Colling at Bedford Lodge, Newmarket.
In a riding career spanning 27 years he rode the winners of 13 Classic races, including four winners of the Oaks – Rockfel (1938), Commotion (1941), Sun Stream (1945) and Steady Aim (1946). He also rode three Derby winners Felstead (1928), Blenheim (1930) and Watling Street (1942). In 1946, on his final day as a jockey at Manchester, he landed a 200-1 treble with Tiffin Bell, Aprolon and Las Vegas (November Handicap). He was Champion Jockey in 1941, the year Gordon Richards broke his leg, so dividing the latter’s run of 22 Championships. Training from Abington Place, Newmarket, Wragg was an innovator of timing gallops and racing horses abroad. He sent out five Classic winners, including Psidium to win the 1961 Derby at odds of 66-1. In 1983, his son Geoffrey, who had previously assisted him, trained Teenoso to win the Derby.
One of the all-time great jockeys. Self assured to the point of cockiness, he was invariably at odds with his employers. Born in Lambeth, the son of a fishmonger, Smirke was apprenticed to Stanley Wootton at Epsom and, after showing great promise, was retained by the Aga Khan.
In 1928, he was warned off when appearing not to start the odds-on favourite in a 2-y-o Plate at Gatwick. However, he got his licence back in 1933, when the ‘culprit’, Welcome Gift, having been shipped to India, had acquired a reputation for refusing to start.
Classic victories followed on Windsor Lad (1934 Derby), Bahram (1935 St Leger) and Mahmoud, pictured above (1936 Derby), before he was called to Army service from 1941-1945. First serving as a bombardier in an anti-aircraft regiment, he transferred to become a driver and later took part in the invasion of Sicily.
After the war, his home destroyed by bombs, Smirke resumed riding in Ireland, first over hurdles and then, courtesy of a phenomenal sprinter – The Bug – he re-established himself as a top-flight jockey, adding to his Classic haul the Guineas winners My Babu (1948) and Palestine (1950), and the Derby winners Tulyar (1952) and Hard Ridden (1958).