Yorkshire-born jockey and trainer Eric Eldin dies at his Newmarket home aged 88
Tributes have been paid to former jockey and trainer, Eric Eldin, who died at his Newmarket home on Sunday aged 88.
Always a popular figure, Yorkshire-born Eric’s 40-year career began in 1947 when he was just 14 and was apprenticed to Ryan Jarvis. Three years later he rode his first winner on Penfair at Leicester.
During his time with Jarvis, Eric partnered Lomond to win the Princess of Wales’s Stakes in 1965 and 1966, when he also won the Ebor on the same horse, edging out the Lester Piggott-ridden Valoroso by a short head. He also enjoyed Classic success in the Irish 1,000 Guineas on Front Row in 1968.
“I know my late father had enormous respect for Eric as his stable jockey,” said trainer William Jarvis. “I always remember him telling me that Eric had impeccable manners and that he was a very strong jockey who was hard to beat in a close finish. Although he didn’t win the biggest races, he was held in high esteem throughout the racing community.”
Later, Eric was stable jockey to Jack Waugh, for whom he rode Lucasland to victory in the July Cup and Diadem Stakes and the recalcitrant Knockroe, a horse Lester Piggott turned down, on whom he broke the track record for the Derby course in a handicap two days after the Blue Riband in 1973.
Sir Mark Prescott, who had been Waugh’s assistant, also employed Eric as stable jockey at Heath House before he moved on to ride for Doug Smith.
“He was always trim, beautifully turned out and a natty dresser,” said Sir Mark. “He looked like Joe Mercer in a finish and rode like him, he was normally well-positioned, handy, and would go on one-and-a-half out, that sort of thing. He was a good horseman.”
Former jockey John Higgins remembered Eric’s kindness. “I was with Henry Cecil who was giving me a few rides. Eric had a sauna in his back garden and he always let me use it. He was a very kind and helpful, a lovely man.”
During the winter months Eric rode regularly in India and it was there he met Margot, the woman with whom he would share his life for more than 60 years. The couple went on to have two daughters, Lorraine and Michelle, four grandchildren, including Lorraine’s two sons, Jamie and Nicky, who also had careers as jockeys. Eric was also a great grandfather and died on the day his great granddaughter Molly was christened.
“He had been diagnosed with leukaemia, but he never complained,” said Margot. “At his last consultation when the doctor said they could not do any more for him, he just smiled and said: ‘Well I am 88’. That was the type of person he was, but I don’t know what I am going to do without him.”
After he retired from the saddle, Eric took up training at Loder Stables, in Hamilton Road, where the best horses he trained were Prowess Prince and Grand Unit, but economics defeated him in the end and he relinquished his licence. A spell in Singapore followed where he was a much-valued instructor at its apprentice school.
When he returned to Newmarket he became a popular guide at the National Horseracing Museum, regaling visitors with his racing stories, demonstrating riding skills on the horse simulator and escorting tours of the town, the gallops and the racecourse.
Eric’s funeral service will be on Tuesday, July 20, and the cortege will pass the Jockey Club in Newmarket High Street en route to the crematorium from 12.30pm for those wishing to pay their respects. Donations in Eric’s memory will be for the Injured Jockeys’ Fund and can be made via Southgate funeral directors.