Which were John Francome’s first and last winners?
The late Michael Seely, Chief Racing Correspondent at ‘The Times’, once wrote,
‘Watching John Francome in action is the most aesthetically pleasing sight in steeplechasing.’ Unfortunately, Francome was also dubbed ‘the best jockey in history never to have won the Grand National’; he famously turned down the ride on the 1976 winner, Rag Trade, having ridden the same horse into tenth, and last, place behind L’Escargot the previous year.
Nevertheless, at the time of his retirement, on April 9, 1985, Francome had ridden 1,138 winners, beating the previous record for the number of career wins by a National Hunt jockey, 1,035, set by the late Stan Mellor in 1972. He won the Jump Jockeys’ Championship seven times between 1976 and 1985, including the title he shared, magnanimously, with Peter Scudamore in 1981/82.
Francome became conditional jockey to Fred Winter at Uplands in Lambourn, Berkshire straight from school and rode his first winner, Multigrey, at Worcester on December 2, 1970. He rode his last winner, Gambler’s Cup, at Huntingdon on April 8, 1985, but in between times, won the Cheltenham Gold Cup, on Midnight Court in 1978, the King George VI Chase, on Wayward Lad in 1982 and Burrough Hill Lad in 1984, and the Hennessy Gold Cup – now the Ladbrokes Trophy – twice, on Brown Chamberlin in 1983 and Burrough Hill Lad in 1984.