By Niamh Townsend
Very few apprentice jockeys are able to boast the kind of record that Sammy Jo Bell held during her time in the saddle. 82 winners, 51 of which were for her boss Richard Fahey, she had a very special talent which was evident on many occasions between March 2011 and October 2017 between her first and final wins on the racecourse. On the day that she announced her retirement, here’s a short tribute to a very talented jockey.
Think back to Shergar Cup Day, 8th of August 2015. An event that sets the very best jockeys in the world against each other in an afternoon of competition to see who is the very best. In the 13 years that the Shergar Cup had been running for, the ‘Girls’ team had never won once – and no apprentice jockey had ever been asked to take part.
That all changed in 2015 when Sammy Jo Bell, an apprentice based with Richard Fahey, was called up to replace the injured Cathy Gannon at the last minute. Despite many believing that she faced the possibility of being out of her depth against the very best jockeys the world had to offer, Bell well and truly held her own at Ascot to win two races, play an integral part in the first ever victory for the Girls’ team, and on top of all that be crowned the best jockey on the day and win the Silver Saddle.
It seemed as if nothing could stop Sammy Jo Bell from becoming the next big name in the racing world after her success in the Shergar Cup, and yet there was a cruel turn of fate on its way.
In May 2016 when riding the six year old Royal Duchess down to the start at Carlisle, Sammy Jo suffered a broken pelvis when the horse reared up and fell on top of her. Whilst initial scans seemed to suggest that she’d escaped serious injury, the Malton based jockey would find herself on the sidelines until March of 2017. Her determined attitude deemed that it would not be long until she was riding winners again, and it was at Musselburgh on the 15th of April last year that she was able to ride that winner in the shape of Cullingworth who bravely held on by a head to win the Royal Mile Handicap over Grey Britain under a masterful ride from Bell.
Again, it looked as if things were going to just keep getting better for the young jockey from Northern Ireland, but after only winning 16 races last season she has decided to call time on her career.
Riding her first winner very early on in her career on the 27th of March 2011 aboard Celtic Dane, who was trained by her first boss Kevin Prendergast, at Leopardstown, Sammy Jo Bell was able to make her final ride a winner aboard All My Love, trained by Pam Sly, at Catterick on the 10th of October.
Overall, she won 82 races (7 of which came on the Richard Fahey trained Arctic Feeling) and won over £700,000 in prize money. So finally, from everyone here at Rein It In, we wish the very best of luck to Sammy Jo Bell in wherever life takes her next and would like to congratulate her on all that she achieved during her career.