New champion apprentice trophy named after ‘great racing man’ Tom O’Ryan

FITTING TRIBUTE -- the Tom O'Ryan Champion Apprentice Trophy, which will be presented on Qipco Champions Day at Ascot on Saturday, October 15.
FITTING TRIBUTE -- the Tom O'Ryan Champion Apprentice Trophy, which will be presented on Qipco Champions Day at Ascot on Saturday, October 15.

This year’s champion apprentice jockey will receive a trophy newly named after racing personality Tom O’Ryan, whose death in August sent shockwaves through the sport.

Former jockey and racing journalist O’Ryan, who lost a brief battle with cancer at the age of 61, was hugely popular in the north, particularly Yorkshire, where he laid his racing roots.

He was particularly well liked among younger jockeys, who often sought him out for riding advice, so it seems appropriate that this year’s champion apprentice will be presented with a newly acquired, perpetual trophy named in his honour.

The trophy, which was funded by the sponsor of the apprentice jockeys’ title, Stobart Group, will be presented to the rider with the most winners during the championship period that has run since Qipco 2,000 Guineas Day at Newmarket on April 30 and will conclude on Qipco Champions Day at Ascot a week on Saturday, October 15.

O’Ryan was a talented rider during his career and was also named racing journalist of the year in 2002 while working for the ‘Racing Post’, but it was his guidance and support that he gave to up-and-coming jockeys that endeared him to generations of riders starting out in their own careers.

Andrew Tinkler, chief executive of Stobart Group, said: “Tom was always on hand to help out young riders when they needed advice, so we were delighted to help facilitate his name being associated with the new champion apprentice trophy.”

Paul Hanagan, former winner of both the champion apprentice and champion jockey titles, said: “I knew Tom well when I was based up north. He was always a great help to us in the weighing room and helped me out as young jockey. He was a racing man through and through and understood the game well. I am delighted to see his name associated with the new trophy.”

Dale Gibson, executive director at the Professional Jockeys Association, said: “Tom was kind, knowledgeable and very generous with his time, especially with the apprentices in the weighing room. I couldn’t think of a more fitting tribute to have his name sit alongside the greatest award a young rider can obtain. I knew him for more than 25 years and he will be sorely missed.”

Last year’s champion apprentice, Tom Marquand, added: “It’s fitting a tribute to have the new trophy named in Tom O’Ryan’s honour. He was widely known as somebody that helped a lot of apprentices over the years and all he ever did was give to racing, especially apprentices. I don’t think anybody would have a bad thing to say about him. He was a fantastic person. I would be immensely proud to win the trophy named in his honour.”

Marquand is still in the running to retain the title, although he is due to switch to a full professional licence on Monday, which means that any winners he rides in the final week of competition will not count.

At the time of writing, he sat second in the table with 44 winners, four behind leader Josephine Gordon. Their closest pursuer, Adam McNamara, has 37 winners.