The Duke of Albuquerque – The Worst Jockey in History

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Beltran de Osorio y Diez de Rivera, the “Iron” Duke of Albuquerque (1919-1994), was a Spanish aristocrat obsessed with horse-racing. After receiving a film of the Grand National as a gift for his eighth birthday, the Corinthian Duke set his sight on England’s greatest equestrian prize: “I said then that I would win that race one day,” he later recalled. He nearly died trying.

The amateur jockey entered the National seven times with impressively consistent results. Generally he would start with the others, gallop briefly and then wake up in the Royal Liverpool Infirmary (where apparently he always booked a private room when he rode in the race). Each year, Peter O’Sullevan would gravely intone: “And the Duke of Albuquerque’s gone”. On his first attempt in 1952, he fell from his horse at the sixth fence, nearly broke his neck and woke up later in hospital with a cracked vertebra. He tried to win again in 1963, and fell from his horse yet again, this time at the fourth fence. Undeterred, he returned in 1965 but again fell from his horse after it collapsed underneath him, breaking his leg. His ineptitude was so apparent that in 1963 bookies even offered odds of 66-1 – against him even finishing the race atop his horse! He returned in 1973 when his stirrup broke, although he clung on for eight fences before being sent into inevitable orbit. In 1974, after having sixteen screws removed from a leg he had broken after falling in another race, he also fell while training for the Grand National and broke his collarbone. Nevertheless, he then competed in a plaster cast, this time actually managing to finish the race for the only time in his splendid career, but only in eighth (and last) place aboard Nereo: “I sat like sack of potatoes and gave the horse no help” he said after the race. One anecdote from this race is that he barged into Ron Barry at second Canal Turn; Barry said “What the f*** are you doing?”, to which he replied: “My dear chap I haven’t a clue…I’ve never got this far before!” In 1976, he sustained his most serious injuries after being trampled in a race by several other horses. He suffered seven broken ribs, several fractured vertebrae, a broken wrist and thigh, and a major concussion, and was in a coma for two days. After recovering he announced, at the age of 57, that he planned to race yet again. Race organizers wisely revoked his license “for his own safety”. It has later been said that the Duque was not so bad after all -to finish eighth at the Grand National whilst in a cast is a formidable feat. However, his ability to command good quality horses owing to his wealth must have grated against professional jockeys, who have to compete against one another for the opportunity.

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Hi, I am an administrator of Popular-Nostalgia.com. I helped to set up this site, and have been given the task of running some of the day-to-day stuff that goes on. Most of the posts written by me are from my own recollections and memories, though some are those which get emailed to me from time to time!

6 Responses to “ The Duke of Albuquerque – The Worst Jockey in History ”

  1. [...] Runners and Finishers in the Grand National Posted in April 3rd, 2008 by System Tipster in Grand National Here are the statistics for the number of runners who have finished in each Grand National since 1971, as well as the ground conditions and commentary on the reason for the non-placed runners. The Grand National Handicap Steeplechase is notorious for thrills, spills and leaving some of the world’s best horses and jockeys behind. More than one event has been made all the more unpredictable by loose horses, not to mention crazy aristocrats! [...]

  2. See also Racing Week’s tips on the Racing & Betting Portal, or in today’s Darlington & Stockton Times, published in the north-east and covering North Yorkshire, Co. Durham, Cleveland.

  3. [...] Here are the statistics for the number of runners who have finished in each Grand National since 1971, as well as the ground conditions and commentary on the reason for the non-placed runners. The Grand National Handicap Steeplechase is notorious for thrills, spills and leaving some of the world’s best horses and jockeys behind. More than one event has been made all the more unpredictable by loose horses, not to mention crazy aristocrats! [...]

  4. Le mot “incompétence” employé dans l’article est totalement inapproprié, au plus pourrait-on parles d’inexpérience en ce qui concerne ses premières participations au Grand National, cette inexpérience provenant de ce qu’il était un parfait amateur n’ayant aucune crainte de se frotter aux professionnels.
    Le Duc d’ALBUQUERQUE avec lequel j’ai eu l’ocasion de monter en courses de Gentlemen-Riders en France était un passionné de cheval doté, il l’a prouvé en montant à Liverpool, d’un immense courage, d’une parfaite correction et d’une grande courtoisie.

  5. However, this website is not a serious reflection of history, it is individual reminiscences. It is not an article.

  6. I remember nursing the Duke after one of his G.N.races. He was in a private side room in Walton Hospital.
    He was quiet a character and really memorable.

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