Who was Walter Swinburn?

The late Walter Swinburn, who suffered a fatal head injury when falling from the bathroom window of his home in Belgravia, London in 2016, at the age of 55, was a former jockey and trainer. Swinburn had suffered from post-traumatic epilepsy after a near-fatal riding accident at Sha Tin, Hong Kong in 1996, which may, or may not, have contributed to his death.

Swinburn rode his first winner, Paddy’s Luck, at Kempton in July, 1978 and enjoyed a meteoric rise through the ranks, thanks in no small part to the tutelage of Herbert ‘Frenchie’ Nicholson and Reg Hollinshead. By 1980, he had not only ridden out his claim, but had been appointed stable jockey to Michael Stoute – in the days before his knighthood – for the following season. Nicknamed the ‘Choirboy’ in his heyday, because of his fresh-faced, angelic looks, Swinburn was still only 19 years of age when he rode the ill-fated Shergar to a record 10-length win in the Derby in 1981.

All told, Swinburn won a total of eight British Classics and recorded numerous high-profile successes at home and abroad, including the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on All Along in 1983 and the Breeders’ Cup Turf on Pilsudski in 1996, to name but two, before retiring from the saddle in 2000. Four years later, he took over the training licence at Church Farm in Tring, Hertfordshire from his father-in-law, Peter Harris, and enjoyed a reasonably successful training career before handing in his licence, due to financial constraints, in 2011.