Jumps legend Maguire rates Paddington as ‘best I’ve ever ridden’

By Sports Desk August 08, 2023

Adrian Maguire has been blessed to partner and train some some top-class horses in his career.

Widely regarded as a supreme talent in the saddle, it has been 21 years since a broken neck forced his premature retirement from the rigours of riding National Hunt horses.

“Fit and well”, he is now a key cog in the well-oiled machine at Ballydoyle, riding out each day for Aidan O’Brien. And he has the pleasure of partnering a certain Paddington.

“I’m making a living. If we’re doing that, we’re doing all right,” said Maguire.

“I’ve been here five and a half years now. I am enjoying it. It’s very good. We have the best of everything.

“When I came here first, I found it very, very boring. All I was doing was going up a straight gallop and it took a while to adjust and just take myself back a few steps and relax into it.

“All’s good, my health is good.”

Maguire rode over 1,000 winners in his career, with plenty of big-race success which included a Cheltenham Gold Cup with Cool Ground in 1992, a Champion Chase with Viking Flagship a couple of years later and a pair of King George VI Chase wins with Barton Bank and Florida Pearl.

Once retired, he was also responsible for the development of 2008 Gold Cup hero Denman, before he was sold to Paul Nicholls.

He dabbled with pin-hooking and then joined the training ranks himself, saddling some decent horses, such as multiple Grade Two-winning hurdler Celestial Wave and versatile 10-time winner Golden Kite.

Increased competition and escalating costs forced him to call a halt in 2017. But you cannot keep a good man down for long.

He is now associated with a Flat champion in Paddington, who won his fourth consecutive Group One when taking the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood.

“I ride out Paddington every day,” said Maguire. “For what he has achieved so far, he’s the best I’ve ever ridden.

“He’s an amazing horse. He was always a good horse, but what he’s doing on the racecourse, to win with great authority, is leaving no doubt in people’s minds.

“It’s great. I can only imagine how far he’ll go and seeing the reaction here at Ballydoyle, everyone is so delighted to have what people are calling a superstar horse at the moment in the yard.

“Everyone gets great joy out of watching him do what he is doing.”

Paddington has surprised even O’Brien with the rapid improvement he has shown this season.

Though bred in the purple, the son of Siyouni showed precious little hint of what he would achieve when beaten eight lengths in a seven-furlong debut at Ascot in September.

He he has remained unbeaten in seven races since, however, including victories in the Irish 2,000 Guineas and the St James’s Palace Stakes, before claiming a 10-furlong Coral-Eclipse win.

Invariably all the good ones have their own unique personality and Maguire says Paddington knows he is something out of the ordinary on the gallops.

“He knows he’s good. He just seems very solid,” he said.

“It’s always nice to ride a special horse. It is what we all do it for – to find that special horse.

“I have been lucky through my riding career to find special horses to ride. I had one or two when I was training also – and Paddington is a very special horse.”

Maguire’s riding career will always be remembered for the epic race for the 1993-94 jump jockeys’ title, a battle that pushed both he and eventual champion Richard Dunwoody to mental and physical limits that few will ever know. Maguire lost 194 winners to 197 in that brutal season.

Considered “a true horseman” by the late, great trainer David Nicholson, the 52-year-old learned plenty in his time as a jockey under ‘The Duke’ and he holds O’Brien in high regard.

“The one thing I admired about Aidan O’Brien before I came here was not only was he a world-class trainer, but he was able to handle the men he was involved with and keep them happy,” said Maguire.

“Then of course, there is the extra pressure of these big races. It is not an easy job.

“I can’t say I know the man more now than when I came here first. He is a very straightforward man. You know what you are going to get. He is a very fair man.

“He is obviously a world-class trainer and he’d be a good diplomat, too.

“Having trained myself, I do certainly have plenty of empathy with what he has to go through, but he does have some great people around him, so that has to be a help.

“It is a lot about delegating, but he likes to have his finger on every pulse.”

Maguire makes the hour-long journey from his home near Mallow every morning to play his part in the powerful Coolmore operation and while Paddington is the apple of his eye, he is always startled at the talent on display.

“I ride a couple of two-year-olds as well,” he added. “Every horse in Ballydoyle is bred to be a superstar. You think you have a nice horse one week, until you sit on another one the following week. It is unbelievable, the talent.

“When I was riding, no matter where I was, I always enjoyed it. Cartmel, Kempton, Cheltenham – it didn’t make a difference.

“But this is a great job and there is a great bunch of staff here, both riding out and on the ground, and it is an extremely well-driven operation.”

Enjoying life, content with his lot, Maguire will happily remain in the shadows. Like every one of the team, he watches with equal measure of pride and wonder at the progress Paddington is making.

But just how far can he go?

“I think anyone watching him run and watching him winning knows as much as I do,” he insisted.

“He is very authoritative in his wins. He leaves no doubt in people’s minds. He does what it says on the tin and he can’t do any more. He is just a very special individual.”

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