Kingsteignton born Michael Germon was a successful apprentice jockey who went on to have a career spanning almost 60 years in horse racing.
It is not surprising that the excitement of riding a horse made a lasting impression on him as a boy as he grew up in Exeter Road Kingsteignton, not far from the Eagle Riding Stables. Added to this, the thundering of hooves around Newton Abbot racecourse could be watched for free from Hackney Marshes, just a stone’s throw away from where he attended primary school.
From a young age Michael had riding lessons at Eagle Farm Riding Stables and took part in various gymkhanas arranged by the South Devon Pony Club winning first prizes at the Chudleigh Gymkana in August 1951 and the Sandygate Gymkhana in 1953.
left:- A young Mike (on pony in front of bicycle) at the meet of the South Devon Hunt, Sandygate, Boxing Day 1951
When he was growing up the nearby Sandygate Inn was a popular venue for Boxing Day meets of the South Devon Hunt and riders from the Eagle Farm stables often took part in the seasonal gallop around the countryside.
On leaving school in 1955 Mike obtained a position as an apprentice at the Wiltshire stables of Sir Gordon Richards. He rode his first winner on Pin Prick, owned by Dorothy Paget, at Chepstow on Bank Holiday Monday, 4th August 1958. His win was witnessed by Sir Gordon who flew from Shoreham on Sea to see the event and promptly flew back to Shoreham to finish his business there.
Riding Sir Michael Sobell’s Olley at the Bath meeting on 13th July 1960, he won the Beaufort Handicap, finishing ahead of the legendary Scobie Breasley.
One of his most spectacular wins under Richards’ tutelage was in the Chobham Apprentice Stakes at Ascot in September 1962. Although Richards did not have a runner in the race he loaned Mike to Malton trainer Bill Elsey to ride Torullo Drawing clear in the last furlong he won by six lengths from Sensational.
left :- Mike on Damredub after winning the Manchester November Handicap in Novenber 1962
The next highlight of his career was two months later in the Manchester November Handicap, when on Damredub, he steered the horse to victory some four lengths ahead of Lester Piggott’s mount, Dalnamein. Owner Tommy Degg, only engaged Mike to ride a few days before the race as he did not think the horse would be fit enough after bruising a leg. When interviewed after the race Mike said that his “mount didn’t mind the soft going and had a good run all the way. At about halfway in the race were about two out from the rails so I decided to bring him to the outside to get the better going. Once we took the lead I never had any doubts.” The defeated Lester Piggott remarked that “my horse made up ground in the straight but I had no chance with the winner”.
Mike went on to ride nine more winners as an apprentice He came out of his apprenticeship in 1963 and the following year married Kathleen Shanahan at Marlborough.
Mention has already been made of Mike riding against greats such as Lester Piggott and Scobie Breasley but he also competed against other jockey greats such as Geoff Lewis,
Joe Mercer, Frankie Durr, Pat Eddery, Greville Starkey and Walter Swinburn. With such competition for the best rides Mike became a valued work rider for various stables with just the occasional race outings.
When riding for legendary trainer Ryan Price on 22nd August 1974 he had his first winner for a decade with Percewood in a three-year-old handicap at Brighton. He had two more winning rides for Price in 1975 – at Lingfield on 12th July, and at Chepstow on 21st October. Added to this he helped Price prepare Bruni for St Leger success on 14th September. In 1976 he served up three more winners for Price, on Galahad II at Nottingham on 27th April, Takearisk at Goodwood on 19th May, and Fly High at Folkestone on 20th July. Three days later he had a fall at Ascot whilst riding Bond’s Best which resulted him fracturing his shoulder. Taken to hospital and patched up, he was discharged in time to see the last race!
He gave up his full licence in 1977 but carried on working in the industry for John Gosden (son of Towser Godsen) before moving to Sussex in 1984 to work at John Dunlop’s Arundel stable.
An accident at work resulted in the need for hip and knee replacements which saw the Injured Jockey Fund kick into action and pay for a new hip. However, the injuries meant that he was no longer able to ride work, but rather than leave the industry, he became Dunlop’s travelling head lad taking horses to race meetings all over the world.
To honour more than half a century of service to the industry, Mike was recognised with a race named after him, the “Michael (Gerry) Germon Lifetime in Racing Handicap” at Goodwood held on 31st May, 2008.
Sadly Mike passed away in April 2020
Footnote:- Mike also appears in the Kingsteignton Junior School Choir photo of 1951 on the Junior School Memories page.