Death of former Greystoke head man who rode out until age of 77

Date: Wednesday 18th July 2018

TRIBUTES have been paid to a mainstay of the northern racing scene, Pat Kavanagh, of Penrith, who has died, aged 78, after dedicating his life to horses and the sport he loved.

A long-serving head man to the late Gordon Richards, at the famous Greystoke yard, Pat — whose career spanned more than 60 years — returned to Eden to work for Gordon’s son, Nicky, and continued to ride out until the age of 77.

Pat was 14 years old and weighed just seven stones when he left Ireland to work for trainer Harry Blackshaw in Middleham, North Yorkshire. It was there that he got his first taste of what it was like being treated as “one of the lads”.

And even in his 70s, he enjoyed that very same feeling, continuing to get up at 6am and ride horses out every day.

“As long as I can jump on a horse, I’ll stick with them,” he was quoted as saying after being honoured with a stable staff of the year prize — one of the industry’s top accolades at the Derby Awards in London in 2009.

Part of that service included a 22-year stint with trainer Jack Ormston at Hutton Magna, between Barnard Castle and Richmond, during which time Pat had the thrill of handling the record-breaking Flat race winner Le Garcon d’Or — the Golden Boy — who won 34 Flat races, including firsts in 13 successive seasons between 1960 and 72.

Pat served as head man for Gordon Richards from 1980 to 1997 when the stable was one of jump racing’s major forces, but after two heart attacks and a bypass he joined Norman Mason’s yard at Brancepeth, near Durham.

It was there he played a role in the early development of 2001 Grand National hero Red Marauder — something of which he was very proud, as to him, his young horses were like children. He also worked for Roger Fisher in his long career.

Having decided retirement was not for him, Pat continued his career by riding out at Richards’s Greystoke base in his 70s.

Nicky Richards said Pat was “a legend” — a proper head man who had to have everything done right. “All the lads who worked under him would be better for it. He was a wonderful man”, he said.

Pat is survived by children Peter and Jayne, and grandchildren Abbi, Ellen and Molly. His wife, also called Pat, died in 2010.