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Top Cheltenham Festival Jockeys: Tim Molony
Thu, Jan 16th, 2014

Tim Molony won 10 Cheltenham Festival races between 1952 and 1956 including 4 on the legendary Wille Stephenson trained Sir Ken. He is the winningmost jockey in the Champion Hurdle and rode the winner four years in succession from 1951. We couldnt get a video of Sir Ken but have Knock Hard winning the Gold cup from British Pathe: 

ROYALTY ATTEND GOLD CUP aka CHELTENHAM GOLD CUP

We also fould this excellent piece in the from the Gloschestshire Echo with Bernard Parkin, the Queen's racing photographer recalling the day when a horse trained close to Prestbury Park nearly ended Sir Ken's bid for greatness :

SINCE the Second World War, five horses have won the Champion Hurdle three times. They are Hatton's Grace, Sir Ken, Persian War, See You Then and Istabraq. As yet, no horse has won the race four times.

Also, during that period of 67 years there have been four jockeys who have been champion more than four times – Tim Molony (5), John Francome (7), Peter Scudamore (8) and AP McCoy (16). Molony was one of the toughest jockeys in a tough era. He reigned as champion between 1949 and 1955 in the days when jockeys had absolutely no protection against falling and being kicked or rolled on while on the ground. Back protectors had yet to be invented and crash helmets frequently came off when a jockey was unseated as they had no retaining strap under the chin. Also, they were made of a cork-like substance which sometimes split when impacting with flying hooves. Goggles were unheard of and medical supervision minimal. If a jockey felt he was able to ride after a bad fall and if he wished to, then he was allowed to do so. On top of all that, there was no such thing as the Injured Jockeys Fund and insurance companies turned their backs on men foolish enough to race over  obstacles. Hard times indeed.

It was the 1953-54 season and it was in this unyielding environment that Molony, noted for his strength in the saddle and his dogged determination, looked forward to the Cheltenham Festival. He hoped that several good rides – and one in particular – would help him to regain the champion jockey title that he had lost to Fred Winter the previous season. His banker for the Festival was Sir Ken, owned by Maurice Kingsley and trained by Willie Stephenson at Royston in Hertfordshire. Stephenson, uncle to David Nicholson, purchased Sir Ken (who he noticed while on holiday in France) for £750. Sir Ken was not only Molony's banker of the meeting, he was everyone's banker as he had won the two previous Champion Hurdles fairly easily by two lengths on each occasion. He was not a very endearing sort of horse as he had moods of bad temper and once, when turned out in a field with another horse, fought and killed it. He did, however, have great determination to win his races and he loved battling up the Cheltenham hill. 

Thirteen horses were entered in the 1954 Champion Hurdle, one of which was called Impney. Impney was one of 21 horses trained locally from stables in Gambles Lane, Woodmancote by Phil Doherty, using the gallops on Cleeve Hill. His stable jockey was Mick Pumfrey, son of a local dairyman and an ex-pupil of Naunton Park School. He was 24-years-old and was Impney's regular jockey. Impney had the distinction of beating the reigning champion hurdler at Uttoxeter five months earlier, causing one great shock to the racing world as Sir Ken had started at 7-1 on. The pair met again three weeks later and this time Sir Ken showed his authority by winning the race by seven lengths, giving Impney no less than 19lb. This caused the bookies to ignore Sir Ken's defeat at Uttoxeter and declaring it to be a complete fluke – but I am not so sure. Doherty was a very canny trainer and he knew exactly how good his charge was. He also knew that Sir Ken was getting older and was experiencing bouts of leg trouble. In the 1954 Champion Hurdle, Impney was allowed to start at 9-1 while Sir Ken was chalked up at 4-9 on. For the second year running he started the odds-on for the Champion Hurdle. We now had the experienced and talented dual champion being taken on by an average sort of horse from a small stable two miles away from Prestbury Park and ridden by a relatively inexperienced local lad.

History tells us the outcome.

As the field swept round the bend at the top of the hill and headed downhill for home, Impney took up the lead from Florestan. The crowd began to fear the worst as Impney flew the last flight of hurdles, still in the lead. Sir Ken, however, had been gradually creeping through the tiring runners and was now only one length behind Impney. The pair battled up the hill towards the winning post with the champion beginning to relish the fight. Impney was holding his own with both horses and riders giving their all. It was desperately exciting. With just over 100 yards to run, Sir Ken gradually forged ahead and crossed the line one length ahead of Impney who in turn finished three lengths ahead of the Irish challenger Galatian ridden by Pat Taaffe. Ten of the best hurdlers on either side of the Irish Sea followed in their wake.

Five years later, a week after Mick and his wife and my wife and I had holidayed together in Cornwall, Mick was killed in a steeplechase at Newton Abbott and I lost one of my closest friends. He was riding a horse called Anniversary for George Hackling, who trained a few horses from his home on the side of Cleeve Hill at Southam. It fell. Mick was uninjured but he received a kick from a following horse which split his crash helmet and he died the following day in Torbay Hospital aged 29. Mick Pumfrey lived close to the Rising Sun on Cleeve Hill, not very far from Emblem Cottage, the home of George Stevens who rode the winner of five Grand Nationals. They are buried within sight of each other in Cheltenham Cemetery. The highlight of Mick Pumfrey's career in the saddle was this epic battle against Molony and Sir Ken on his home course at the National Hunt Festival. It is every jockey's dream to win a race at this most prestigious of race-meetings. Mick nearly did it!

Sir Ken ran in one more Champion Hurdle in 1955 but was unplaced. Impney ran in both the 1955 and 1956 Champion Hurdles and he, too, was unplaced each time.

Molony regained his title in the 1954/55 season.

 Tim Molony Cheltenham Festival Wins

Race

Year

Horse

Age

Trainer

Champion Hurdle

1951

Hatton's Grace

11

Vincent O'Brien

Grand Annual

1951

Merry Court

6

Tom Yates

Grand Annual

1952

Marcianus

6

George Beeby

Champion Hurdle

1952

Sir Ken

5

Willie Stephenson

Arkle

1953

Bramble Tudor

5

Stewart Wight

Gold Cup

1953

Knock Hard

9

Vincent O'Brien

Champion Hurdle

1953

Sir Ken

6

Willie Stephenson

Champion Hurdle

1954

Sir Ken

7

Willie Stephenson

Festival Trophy

1955

Limber Hill

8

Bill Dutton

Arkle

1956

Sir Ken

9

Willie Stephenson

The odds for Leading Rider at the 2014 Cheltenham Festival are tabled below:

Thomas Pink Cheltenham Festival

Leading Rider Award 2014

Odds Table at 16/02/14

FREE BET OFFER - UP TO £200 £25 £50 £25 £50 £10 £30 £50
Ruby Walsh 4/7 4/7 4/7 1/2 4/7 4/7 8/15 8/11
Barry Geraghty 10/3 4 3 4 9/2 4 7/2 11/4
A P McCoy 8 8 8 8 8 10 9 9
Bryan Cooper 14 14 16 14 14 16 16 12
Daryl Jacob 20 20 14 16 20 20 16 12
Sam Twiston-Davies 20 20 20 20 16 25 20 14
Richard Johnson 25 33 33 33 20 33 33 33
Tom Scudamore 33 33 33 33 25 40 40 33
Noel Fehily 33 33 33 33 20 50 33 33
Paul Townend 33 50 33 40 50 50 33 25
Jason Maguire 50 50 50 50 33 50 50 40
Aidan Coleman 50 66 - - 50 66 50 66
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