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Death of Frankie Durr; Racing mourns four-time Classic-winning jockey and Newmarket trainer.

FRANKIE DURR, who enjoyed a distinguished career spanning nearly half a century as jockey and trainer, died on Tuesday night in Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge at the age of 74.

He leaves a widow, Odette, and a daughter Liz, who is married to former jockey Geoff Baxter.

The latter said yesterday: "It's terrible. He spent Christmas and New Year with us but then, last Tuesday, he had a nosebleed. He went into hospital and didn't come out."

Renowned as a fiercely determined, irrepressible character, Durr achieved his greatest successes during a lengthy riding career, most of which was spent as one of Britain's top jockeys. Besides a litany of big handicap winners, he collected four British Classics, the 2,000 Guineas on Mon Fils (in 1973) and Roland Gardens (1978), and the St Leger on Sodium (1966) and Peleid (1973).

After retiring from the saddle in 1978, Durr also sent out good-class winners as a trainer before finally calling time on his professional involvement in racing in 1991.

Francis Durr, born in Liverpool in 1926, was a tough and wiry character, known as one of the most difficult jockeys to beat in an age liberally dotted with hard men.

Having entered racing, like so many, on account of his stature, Durr rode his first winner at Pontefract on Merle in 1944 before going on to become joint champion apprentice the next season in a riding career which was to last 34 years.

He rode for many of Flat racing's more famous names, among them the Duke of Norfolk, Lionel Holliday, Geoffrey Barling, Lady Beaverbrook and, for a long period starting in the late 1960s, for David Robinson, champion owner in 1969 and responsible for many top sprinters, including Nunthorpe winner So Blessed.

Able to ride at below 8st, barely a major handicap eluded Durr, but it was one of his four British Classics that he

always named as his greatest victory - that of Sodium in the 1966 St Leger. The George Todd-trained colt, who had already won the Irish Sweeps Derby, beat Derby winner Charlottown at Doncaster.

A fondness for family life, allied to a hatred of driving, meant Durr was never really a factor in the jockeys' title race, though he twice finished fourth, with his 87 winners in 1969 representing a personal best.

Towards the end of his career, he was associated with the Henry Cecil stable and was also retained by shipping magnate Ravi Tikkoo.

He also enjoyed a late flourish in the saddle as he took both the 2,000 Guineas and the St Leger in 1973, the former with the Richard Hannon-trained Mon Fils, a 50-1 chance, and the latter with Bill Elsey's Peleid, sent off 28-1. Outsiders must have been a speciality - his final Classic winner, Roland Gardens in the 1978 2,000 Guineas, was also a 28-1 chance.

After retiring from the saddle, Durr combined training with farming from the 300-acre estate at Kirtling, near Newmarket, which he bought early in his riding career.

His biggest success in his second profession came almost straight away, when the classy sprinter Ahonoora, the best horse he trained, was awarded the William Hill Sprint Championship in 1979 on the disqualification of Thatching.

Good races were also won with the likes of Another Realm, Noalto and Gift Wrapped but, though his patrons were to include Sheikh Mohammed and Khalid

Abdullah, he was unable to sustain the success which saw him send out 57 winners in 1983, his best season.

Durr retired in May 1991, after which most of his energies were expended on the golf course.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Author:Godfrey, Nicholas
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Jan 20, 2000
Words:599
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