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Jim Wilson, Cheltenham Gold Cup-winning beginner jockey, dies aged 72

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  • Jim Wilson, the Cheltenham Gold Cup-winning amateur jockey died on 29 August aged 72, from cancer.

    Born Andrew Jim Wilson in Maidstone, Kent, in 1950, Mr Wilson’s family relocated and he was raised in Ireland.

    He spent his early years riding for trainers Paddy Mullins and Georgie Wells, then went to France where he rode for Jacko Doyasbere. He returned to the UK and rode for George Owen, and Dan Moore in Ireland. He rode his first winner, Advocate, in 1970 at Clonmel.

    He later spent seven years riding for David Nicholson in the Cotswolds, and while there he met his wife Melinda.

    Mr Wilson was known for his success at the Cheltenham Festival, most notably when he became only the third amateur jockey to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup, with Little Owl in 1981. The horse was previously owned by Mr Wilson’s aunt, Bobby Gundry, who bought him from trainer Peter Easterby. When Ms Gundry died in 1980 Little Owl was left to Mr Wilson.

    He had ridden his first Cheltenham Festival winner two years earlier, Willie Wumpkins in the Coral Golden Hurdle – a success they repeated in 1980 and 1981. The horse was trained by his owner, Mr Wilson’s mother-in-law Jane Pilkington, and was unplaced in the same race in 1978. Mr Wilson had belief in the horse and said he could win the race the following year.

    In 1980 Mr Wilson was crowned the Festival’s leading rider for three wins, and in 1984 he rode his seventh and final Festival winner, Broomy Bank in the Kim Muir Memorial Chase.

    Mr Wilson rode 205 winners and was runner-up amateur rider champion five consecutive times during his career.

    In 1985 he retired from the saddle to set up as a trainer at Glenfall Stables near Cheltenham. His first winner was Alangrove Sound at Wolverhampton that year.

    In 1987 he trained Taberna Lord, winner of the Cheltenham Festival Coral Golden Hurdle with jockey Luke Harvey. He had 75 winners as a trainer; his last, Seymour Legend, at Stratford in March 2015.

    Luke said he was very sorry to hear Mr Wilson had died, describing him as a “nice man” who trained and rode “some very good horses”.

    A spokesman for O’Brien-McPherson Racing paid tribute to Mr Wilson and said “one of the true characters” of the National Hunt world has been lost.

    He is survived by Melinda, his daughters Fiona and Sarah and three grandchildren.

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