A staggering 250,000 punters will be hoofing it to Cheltenham Festival this week to enjoy the drama of the horse racing extravaganza.
But spare a thought for the ups and downs of the life of a jockey.
For, over the years, there have been some bizarre stories involving riders in the sport. The ones who had heart attacks while in lane, the ones who fell off their horse before getting back on, and even that competed as their trousers fell off.
It's fair to say that horse racing is more than just a sporting event – it's an occasion that provides some of the wildest moments around.
Here JAMES MOORE saddles up to bring you some of the strangest tales from the turf…
One horse race
Sir AP McCoy rode more than 4,000 winners during his career, but none of the jump jockey’s victories were as unusual as that at a Southwell race in 2002.
Riding the favourite, Family Business, he fell at the 10th fence. But one by one all the other runners came a cropper too. So Tony remounted to win.
Back on Boxing Day in 1996, brothers in law Andrew Payne, riding Hon Kwok Star, and Jason Patton, on Cogitate, lined up against each other for a race in South Australia.
But, midway through, the pair’s steeds slammed into each other, sending them both flying into the air. While Patton was unseated, 17-year-old Payne miraculously landed on top of Cogitate, grabbed the reins and went on to win.
On the case
As they lined up for the 1928 Grand National, no one gave amateur jockey William Dutton, a solicitor, a chance on rank outsider Tipperary Tim. In fact, one of his pals even shouted out: “Billy boy, you’ll only win if all the others fall!”
Amazingly, in foggy conditions that’s exactly what happened with Dutton winning at 100-1.
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Top jump jockey Graham Thorner once finished a race without his trousers after they fell apart. And in 2015 jockey Seb Sanders, inset right, finished fourth at Goodwood on Langley Vale while only wearing socks on his feet.
He later explained that he’d gone bootless to make the weight and it turned out that he hadn’t actually broken any rules.
Flat jockey Lester Piggott, inset left, was famously jailed for tax evasion, but the nine-time Derby winner got up to some wacky
antics on his steeds too.
During a 1979 race at Deauville in France he dropped his whip, but then coolly reached over and pinched that of French jockey Alain Lequeux, going on to finish second, ahead of his bemused rival.
Never give up
Plucky Aussie jockey Les Boots happily went on a run of 40 falls in 39 starts. During one race he fell off his horse but then got back on again, adding: “I caught him, remounted him and fell at the half-mile – and I fell out the ambulance coming to hospital.”
American jockey Frank Hayes is unique in horse racing history. In 1923 he was riding Sweet Kiss at Belmont Park, New York, when he suffered a fatal heart attack.
Somehow his body remained upright in the saddle and the 20-1 chance went on to win.
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