For The Record: Scotland has never been a breeding ground for top National Hunt riders.
TO describe Peter Niven as the
greatest Scottish jump jockey of all time is accurate, but also damns him with faint praise.
Scotland has produced some outstanding Flat jockeys, notably Willie Carson, Tommy Burns, Sandy Barclay and Richard Quinn, but Niven, a farmer's son who was born in Dundee, is the best of a poor bunch of jump jockeys from north of the border.
In the book A Century Of Champions, I ranked the 50 best British/Irish jump jockeys since 1900, and Niven, at No. 50, was the only Scotsman among them. The 49 above him comprised 26 from England, 20 from Ireland (including Northern Ireland) and three from Wales. The lack of a jump-racing tradition in Scotland is partly attributable to the fact that hunting-a rich source of jockeys and horses-has never been as important there as in other parts of the British Isles.
Niven himself started his career as an amateur rider in hunter chases, and Charlie Cunningham, the only other exceptional jump jockey to be born in Scotland, was an amateur throughout his career.
Cunningham was one of the leading National Hunt riders of the Victorian era and is still one of only two jump jockeys to ride six winners in one day, a feat he achieved at Rugby Hunt on March 29, 1881.
Niven's most notable record is in a similar category, for, between October 1991 and November 1992, he became the first jump jockey to ride four five-timers.
He would have equalled Cunningham's record at Kelso on October 5, 1991 except for the intervention of the stewards. He rode the first five winners and Graham McCourt, the scheduled rider of the odds-on favourite (and eventual winner) in the last, was prepared to relinquish the mount to Niven, but the officials insisted that McCourt, who had been declared, honour his engagement.
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|Publication:||The Racing Post (London, England)|
|Date:||May 7, 2001|
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