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Bunny Cox, outstanding amateur rider, dies aged 80.

Byline: TONY O'HEHIR

BUNNY COX, acknowledged as one of Ireland's greatest amateur riders before becoming a successful trainer, has died at his home in Dundalk, County Louth. He was 80.

John Richard Cox, known to everyone in racing as Bunny, was born on February 13, 1925 and rode his first winner aged 13 in an amateur career that lasted from 1938 to 1972.

Cox, who had been ill for some time, was champion amateur in Ireland five times - 1944, 1945, 1952, 1956 and again in 1958 when he shared the title with Francis Flood.

Among Cox's major successes were the 1959 Champion Chase on Quite Que, trained by Dan Moore for Doreen Brand. He had won the Cathcart Chase on the same horse at Cheltenham the previous year.

He was successful on Pontage, also for Moore, in the 1953 National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham, and a year later landed the same event for Vincent O'Brien on Quare Times.

In 1940, aged only 15, Cox won the Troytown Chase on Drumbilla, owned and trained by his father, John.

He twice won the Conyngham Cup at Punchestown, on Loyal Antrim in 1949 and on Little Trix, trained by his father, in 1951.

On the Flat, he twice won the big amateur riders' handicap at the Galway Festival, on Old Mull in 1961 and on Maigret in 1963.

The late Fred Winter, who rode against Cox on many occasions, was on record as saying it was just as well for the professional ranks that Cox always remained an amateur, such was his prowess in the saddle.

A veterinary surgeon, Cox, who had been assistant to his father, began training in 1970 and among the better horses he handled were Highway View, winner of the Galway Hurdle and the Leopardstown Chase, and Fort Fox, whose wins included the John Jameson Gold Cup at Punchestown and what is now the Paddy Power Handicap Chase at the Leopardstown Christmas meeting.

He trained Fortune Seeker, who won the 1983 Leopardstown Chase, and Sicilian Answer, who landed the Troytown Chase in 1983 and the Leopardstown Chase in 1984.

His biggest victory over hurdles was with the Robert Sinclair-owned Atone, who landed the Ladbroke Hurdle at Leopardstown in 1994.

Paying tribute yesterday, Flood said: "Bunny was a very good rider - strong and polished. He had great hands and a lovely seat on a horse. He was also a really nice fellow.

"We rode against each other many, many times, and when he started training I remember riding a few winners for him."

Cox is survived by his wife Sally - daughter of another outstanding Irish rider of the 20th century, Aubrey Brabazon - three daughters Jennifer, Suzanne, who is a trainer, and Michelle, and a son, Richard.

The funeral takes place tomorrow at 1pm at The Green Church (Church of Ireland) in Dundalk.

CAPTION(S):

Bunny Cox pictured with his daughter, trainer Suzanne Cox, and Barry Geraghty at Leopardstown
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Article Type:Obituary
Date:Jan 12, 2006
Words:488
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