Walter Swinburn, who rode Shergar to victory in the 1981 Epsom Derby (Eng-I), died Dec. 12, according to reports. He was 55.
Swinburn rose to prominence at age 19 when he piloted the Aga Khan's Shergar to a 10-length victory in the Epsom Derby, the largest winning margin in the race's history. He would go on to win the Derby twice more, in 1986 with Shahrastani and 1995 aboard Lammtarra.
Swinburn, known as "the Choirboy," also rode 1983 Horse of the Year and champion grass mare All Along. The pair picked up wins that year in the Trusthouse Forte Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I), the Rothmans International Stakes (Can-IT), the Washington D.C. International (gr. IT), and the Turf Classic (gr. IT).
In addition, Swinburn took the top prize in the 1996 Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) aboard Pilsudski among a number of other top races before retiring from riding in 2000.
In 2004 he took out his training license and found success before ending that part of his career in 2011. One of his most notable runners Stotsfield won three group III races under his care.
A number of jockeys, trainers, and racing fans have been paying tribute to Swinburn on social media.
Champion rider A.P. McCoy tweeted: "Very sad to hear about the death of Walter Swinburn. Brilliantly stylish and a genius in the saddle. A jockey that God hath retained. RIP."
Dale Gibson, former rider and executive director of the Professional Jockeys Association, tweeted: "Sad news to hear Walter Swinburn has passed away—a natural talent, incredible balance, hands, judgement of pace and a joy to watch."
Nick Luck, Channel 4 Racing and NBC Sports presenter, tweeted: "Such sad news that Walter Swinburn has died. Brilliantly unflappable on the big stage; a generous colleague and gentle man off it."
Sir Michael Stoute, the trainer of Shergar, described Swinburn to the London Telegraph as “one of the great talents with the best hands of any of them. On the big days he was nerveless, and he lived for those occasions. We had many, many very happy successful days. It’s just so sad."
John Reid, a weighing room colleague, described Swinburn as a "wonderful jockey.
“The first time I met him, in a house at Epsom, he was just a small boy, who had just started as an apprentice, watching television. But he went on to great things. He was super talented," Reid said.
“He was just about the coolest jockey I have ever seen. He’d be sitting on a brilliant racehorse about as relaxed as he would have been sitting in an armchair. He had beautiful balance, great hands and was always in the right place at the right time. He could get horses to do thing other people couldn’t.”