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Newmarket's racing figures pay tribute to former jockey Joe Mercer known as Smokin' Joe

Newmarket’s racing community has been remembering former jockey Joe Mercer, who died on Monday aged 86.

Tributes were led by his niece Carolyn Eddery, whose father – Joe’s brother Manny – was just 29 when he was killed in a racing fall at Ascot in 1959.

“Uncle Joe will never be forgotten, he will be talking horses with my dad now, up in heaven. My thoughts go to Anne his wife, and the family at this sad time,” she said.

Joe Mercer with Alex Scott and Willie Shoemaker (47304910)
Joe Mercer with Alex Scott and Willie Shoemaker (47304910)

At the beginning of this month Joe had made what was to be his last public appearance when he was interviewed ahead of the 2,000 Guineas at the Rowley Mile, a race he had won 50 years ago on the legendary Brigadier Gerard.

In Newmarket he had a spell as stable jockey to the late Sir Henry Cecil and later, after he retired from the saddle, became racing manager to Sheikh Maktoum al Maktoum, working closely with trainer Alex Scott at Gainsborough Stables, in Hamilton Road.

Sir Henry’s first wife Julie said: “It’s sad news. What I remember most about Joe was that he was the most beautiful stylist on a horse.”

Champion trainer John Gosden said: “He was the most wonderful jockey with beautiful hands on a horse. He was a most consummate horseman, just like his brother Manny. ‘Smokin’ Joe’, as we used call him, had a wonderful sense of humour and knew the square root of everything.”

And ten-times champion trainer, Sir Michael Stoute said: “What struck me was his passion and love of the horse, and his energy level was prodigious for a man of his age.”

Other great horses Joe was associated with included Kris, Light Cavalry, Highclere, who he rode to victory in the 1,000 Guineas for the Queen, and Bustino which finished second to Grundy in the 1975 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes in what many called the Race of the Century.

In his last interview Joe said: “I have had a great life. Life has been good to me.”

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