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John Francome: Champion jockey, author and racing presenter

Updated on March 3, 2012

John Francom was born in Swindon, Wiltshire, in December, 1952. His father was a railway fireman and they lived in a council house. They had little money but John's father was a hard worker. The family also had no association with horses or the world of horse-racing that John would come to excell in.

It was only after a trip to the seaside when John was six-years old that his love of horses began. John was taken for a ride on a donkey. But whereas the other children were content to plod along, John was excited and wanted the donkey to go faster. His life-long bond with the animals had been born.

From then on the young chil begged his parents to buy him a pony. His wish was eventually granted, and he was soon given a young pony called Black Beauty. John rode this for many hours across the fields playing games with his friends. John said that these were the happiest moments of his childhood, and it is undoubtedly where he developed the confidence on horseback that would help him to become a seven times champion jockey.

John goes over a fence at the height of his horse racing career
John goes over a fence at the height of his horse racing career
Jockey: John Francome
Jockey: John Francome

Pursuing a career in the equestrian world seemed difficult at first. John's parents were by no means rich, and they didn't have the kind of wealth that many ofther people with horse's did. But after a while it soon became clear that John was a very talented rider.

The young jockey won competitions at local riding schools, despite never having had lessons. As a teenager John began travelling around the country in showjumping competitions. He initially made his mark on the equestrian world as a member of British show-jumping team that won the European Championship.

John was successful in the sport of showjumping but it soon became clear that he would not be able to make enough money from it as a career. Sponsorship was limited in those days, and he didn't have the kind of family wealth that other competitors had which allowed them to have show jumping as a career. John decided that he would be a racing jockey.

Making the move to National Hunt was easy and John quicly began up a famous partnership with trainer Fred Winter at his yard in Lambourn. The new jockey took the National Hunt jockeys championship seven times in total (from 1975 onwards) and over the course of his racing career had 1138 wins. He retired in 1985 as perhaps the most successful jockey of his generation.

John became a trainer for 18 months after he retired. But this wasn't to be. Despite having left school without any qualifications, John made a seamless transition into broadcasting and writing.

John Francome interviews Alice Plunkett while working as a pundit for Channel 4 Racing in the UK
John Francome interviews Alice Plunkett while working as a pundit for Channel 4 Racing in the UK
John on the golf course, chipping out of a bunker
John on the golf course, chipping out of a bunker

John's excellent autobiography 'Born Lucky' was published in 1985. This book was followed in 1988 by 'Twice Lucky'. John was awarded an MBE, a high award in Briatin, in 1986 for services to racing. Parties and evening dinners were no seeking his services as a speaker. Retirement also allowed John to spend more time playing his hobby of golf, which many an opponent will testify to his skill and accuracy.

The former jockey is now one of the most reputable horse racing commentators and pundits in the country. He workd for Channel 4 Racing and often appears on major racing events. John works regularly in the media and has had a column in the Sun newspaper which provides racing tips and analysis.

John has also gone on to become a best-selling author. His fictional books, often set around the world of horse-racing, are gripping tales of exploits on and off the track. John and former jockey Dick Francis are the only two jockeys who have gone on to become champion writers, too. Many of John's books have been on best-selling lists and they have received excellent reviews from critics.

The first book was EavesDropper, written in 1986 with James MacGregor. MacGregor also partnered with John on the next three books - Riding High in 1987, Declared Dead in 1988 and Blood Stock in 1989. From 1990 all John's books were in his own name. These included Stone Cold, Stud Poker, Rough Ride and Outsider . Including his two autobiographies, John has 28 published books in total. The most recent one was Storm Rider in 2010.

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      Albert Fazakarley 

      5 years ago

      Hi , I was wondering why John Francom isn't at Royal Ascot today. Ive missed seeing him in the last couple of months.

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