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Entertainer who lit up the sport; Rodney Masters recalls a pipe-smoking jockey who was a pro on the track and a joker in the weighing room.

Byline: Rodney Masters

AS A guide to his slot in the pecking order of modern day jockeys, Brian Taylor would be a Richard Hughes or a Chris Catlin.

The latter pair, however, have yet to develop Taylor's propensity to weigh out with a pipe tucked into the top of his boot, which he would take out for a few puffs while the horses were circling at the start.

A beacon of inspiration for all today's frustrated young jockeys struggling to make inroads, Taylor took an age to establish himself on even the bottom rung of the ladder, having ridden three winners during a five-year apprenticeship with Harvey Leader in Newmarket. He then signed on for a further three years, but was unable to ride out his claim.

His career reached its pinnacle 35 years ago with Snow Knight's Derby win at 50-1. No jockey, before or since, was closer to Lester Piggott and as they pulled up Piggott, unplaced on Arthurian, congratulated his friend on a first Classic win, before adding, "He must have pissed off with you!" Turning for home, Snow Knight had led Imperial Prince and Giacometti, and that was the order they finished, the winning margin two lengths.

Snow Knight was trained by the late Peter Nelson at Kingsdown Stables in Lambourn, now occupied by Jamie Osborne.

"Brian was very confident about Snow Knight's chance," recalls Nelson's son Charlie, who was 19 at the time and now farms at Baydon, two miles from Lambourn.

"Our colt had been a classy twoyear-old, having run the odds-on Giacometti to a short head in the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster, but for one reason or another his form in the Derby trials hadn't been too good and he was third to Bustino at Lingfield.

"However, a few days before Epsom he did the most amazing piece of work and that restored our confidence. Brian was adamant that he wasn't a 50-1 chance..

"I remember that Snow Knight was fired up with adrenaline that day. He dumped Brian a couple of times after leaving the paddock, and as a result they missed most of the parade. My father had agreed with Brian that it was best to let the colt do his own thing in the race and not to complicate matters if he wanted to go on. He went for home six furlongs out.

"Brian came back chuckling about Lester's comment. The two men were very close and rode in similar styles, though perhaps Brian rode a notch shorter. He was a talented jockey, and rode a lot of winners for us around that time, including the sprinter Bay Express." Snow Knight was owned by Sharon Phillips, wife of a Montreal solicitor, and by the August he was transferred to Canada. He won a string of topclass races as a four-year-old and was rated the leading grass horse in North America.

Ten years after the Derby, Taylor was killed in a racecourse fall. He was 45. At Sha Tin in Hong Kong, he was fired headfirst into the ground by Silver Star, who had previously raced in Britain under another name. Silver Star was on occasions reluctant to put down one foreleg, and in a carbon copy fall that same year during a work session, he ended the riding career of Frenchman Philippe Paquet.

Paquet suffered a fractured skull and remained in a coma for three months.

On the day of Taylor's accident, the racecourse commentator was J A McGrath of the Daily Telegraph and BBC TV. " It was the most terrible tragedy," he says. " Brian had seemed unlikely to ride that day because he'd been suffering from shingles. Wally Hood was standing by to take the mount. Poor Brian sustained severe neck injuries, and he died a couple of days later." T AYLOR'S partner for many years was Bridget Biddlecombe, ex-wife of champion jump jockey Terry Biddlecombe. It was going to be his final season riding in Hong Kong, and they planned to marry the following year when returning home to Newmarket, where he was developing a livery stable.

In Hong Kong, Taylor was first jockey to Derek 'T C' Cheng, trainer of Silver Star, and Hood was his deputy.

Hood says: "Brian had ridden in a couple of races that day but was feeling the pain from the shingles. I asked him if he'd be all right for Silver Star and, having been beaten a shorthead in the previous race, he said yes..

The horse came down shortly after the winning line.

"Brian was a popular guy with everyone and he was a great mate of Lester's. They would make fun of one another in the weighing room, and it was entertaining. Brian was one of those larger than life characters and we've all missed him." In Britain, Jimmy Lindley, the former jockey and BBC TV commentator, had been Taylor's regular golfing and shooting partner.

"I've the very fondest memories of Brian and, like Lester, I thought the world of him," he says. "He was a professional in everything he did, and he would always keep us amused, like when lighting up his pipe for a quick smoke down at the start." Hundreds of racing personalities attended Taylor's funeral. His favourite song was played during the service - Frank Sinatra's My Way..

TAYLOR'S BIGGEST WINNERS Palatch 1967 Yorkshire Oaks, In Command 1967 Prix Henry Dellamarre, Exchange 1968 Yorkshire Oaks, Bringley 1968 Park Hill Stakes, Shoemaker 1969 Derby runner-up, Don Giovanni 1969 Deutches Derby, Cawston's Pride 1970 Queen Mary Stakes, Molecomb Stakes, Lowther Stakes, Cornwallis Stakes, champion 2yo filly, Realm 1970 Diadem Stakes, 1971 July Cup, Snow Knight 1974 Derby, Averof 1974 St James's Palace Stakes, Bay Express 1974 King's Stand Stakes, Whitstead 1977 Sandown Classic Trial, Jellaby 1977 Queen Anne Stakes, M-Lolshan 1978 Irish St Leger, Protection Racket 1981 Irish St Leger, Pelerin 1981 John Porter Stakes, Ormonde Stakes, Muscatite 1983 Craven Stakes, Bedtime 1984 Prix Gontaut-Brion

BIGGEST DERBY SHOCKS price/horse year trainer/jockey 100-1 Aboyeur 1913 Tom Lewis/Edwin Piper 100-1 Signorinetta 1908 Oboardo Ginistrelli/William Bullock 100-1 Jeddah 1898 Richard Marsh/Otto Madden 1000-15 Hermit 1867 George Bloss/Johnny Daley 66-1 Psidium 1961 Harry Wragg/Roger Poincelet 50-1 Snow Knight 1974 Peter Nelson/Brian Taylor 50-1 Airborne 1946 Dick Perryman/Tommy Lowrey 50-1 Little Wonder 1840 John Forth/William MacDonald 50-1 Spaniel 1831 Joseph Rogers/Will Wheatley 50-1 Lapdog 1826 Robert Stephenson/George Dockeray 50-1 Azor 1817 Robert Robson/Jem Robinson'Brian was a popular guy with everyone - he was a larger than life character and we've all missed him'

CAPTION(S):

Brian Taylor after winning the 1974 Derby on 50-1 Snow Knight
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:May 28, 2009
Words:1105
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