Saddle stylist and ‘trainer extraordinaire’ Andy Turnell dies aged 73 | Horse racing news

Race Post/David Dew

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Andy Turnell: ‘The horses just ran for him’

Race Post/David Dew

By Scott Burton

Andy Turnell, the most stylish jump jockey of his generation and a key player in the golden age of hurdlers in the 1970s thanks to his association with Birds Nest, has died at the age of 73.

Noted for riding boldly short in irons and gifted with an impeccable sense of balance, Turnell went on to succeed his father Bob as a successful trainer.

He was renowned for his hunter training and won a Queen Mother Champion Chase with Katabatic in 1991 and the Hennessy Gold Cup courtesy of Cogent two years later.

Gerry Cranham

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Andy Turnell with trademark short irons aboard the 1975 Hennessy Gold Cup winner on April 7

Andy Turnell with trademark short irons aboard the 1975 Hennessy Gold Cup winner on April 7

Gerry Cranham

His biggest triumph as a coach was sending Maori Venture to win the 1987 Grand National, fulfilling a lifelong ambition for 92-year-old owner Jim Joel.

The National had been Turnell’s biggest goal as a jockey and the best of his 13 attempts was when he was third to Charles Dickens behind Red Rum in 1974.

Steve Knight rode as Bob Turnell’s second rider and continued the partnership as his son’s stable jockey, leading Maori Venture to that famous Tsarevich defeat; not that Andy was at all convinced that his charge was good for Aintree.

mirrorpix

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Jim Joel was on holiday in South Africa but returned to greet his Grand National Maori Venture winner at Andy Turnell's East Hendred Stables in Oxfordshire.

Jim Joel was on holiday in South Africa but returned to greet his Grand National Maori Venture winner at Andy Turnell’s East Hendred Stables in Oxfordshire.

mirrorpix

Knight recommended the National to Joel’s race manager after winning the Mandarin Chase at Newbury.

“The next morning Andy told me the old boy said we could get him in but we could always get him out,” Knight recalled. “Andy thought I was crazy. I said we’d fall before the third or go around.

“Even the night before we were walking around and Andy said ‘you can always change your mind’ because we also had Tracys Special.”

Knight added: “He could train moderate horses to win decent races, like his father. Maybe that was just a gift. In all the years I rode for him, we never had a crossword or an argument.”

Cranham

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Andy Turnell and Birds Nest on their way to success at the 1979 Christmas Hurdle in Kempton

Andy Turnell and Birds Nest on their way to success at the 1979 Christmas Hurdle in Kempton

Cranham

For a generation of racing fans who grew up in the days of Sea Pigeon and Night Nurse, it’s Turnell’s rides aboard Birds Nest that will be remembered forever, with the pair making it twice the frame in six remarkable appearances from Champion Hurdle.

“I was riding Birds Nest all the time,” said Knight, who had particular success with the horse in Newcastle’s Fighting Fifth Hurdle. “I often asked Andy what the best horse he had ever ridden was and he always supported Tree Tangle. I thought Birds Nest would have been the best.

“He used to ride so short that you were like, ‘I can’t wait to get on that horse, I’m going to make him 7 pounds better. But you could never improve it an ounce. The horses just ran for him.

“As a coach, he stood by you all the time, even if the owners were a bit against you. We had a lot of fun.”

Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)

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Andy Turnell trained Maori Venture to win the 1987 Grand National and also dispatched Katabatic to win the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham.

Andy Turnell trained Maori Venture to win the 1987 Grand National and also dispatched Katabatic to win the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham.

Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)

Race broadcaster and journalist Luke Harvey rode for Turnell and remembers him as a brave rider who was fiercely loyal to his jockeys and staff.

“He trained on instinct, he didn’t do things the conventional way,” Harvey said. “He would look at a horse in the morning and say he needed two canters, or we’d think one was a bit beefy and he’d say no, just give him one canter today.

“His results have been phenomenal with a Grand National, Queen Mother Champion Chase, Cheltenham Festival winners and the like. He was an amazing trainer.

“He came out wearing a cavalry twill shirt, tie and breeches, and the finest boots you’ve ever seen. He rode two or three batches a day.”

Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)

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Luke Harvey says of Andy Turnell:

Luke Harvey says of Andy Turnell: ‘He trained instinctively, he didn’t do things the conventional way’

Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)

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