left: Ram Fair Carnival 1950 with Neil posing as the jockey of Grand National runner "Wot No Sun" and sister June as the stable boy. Photo courtesy of June Kernick.

Kingsteignton born Neil Kernick was a highly competent jockey whose career was marred by a catalogue of injuries, often involving fractured bones. He was born at 3, Chudleigh Road, Kingsteignton, on 3rd April, 1942 the son of Sid and Lilian Kernick.                                                                                                       According to his mother, war baby Neil’s entry into the world was prompted by the Germans!  During WW2 his father Sid was a member of the local Home Guard. On the night of 2ndApril 1942 the sergeant of the Kingsteignton platoon knocked on their door to inform Sid to report for duty immediately as a message had been received to say that the Germans had landed at Weymouth. At the time Lilian was heavily pregnant and following the news soon went into labour with Neil arriving the following day!

The 1939 Register describes Sid as a “colt breaker /trainer” but he was actually a registered National Hunt Jockey who combined racing with training and gained a reputation for being able to deal with difficult horses.

With this background it is not surprising that Neil grew up to love riding

horses. As a young boy he attended the Eagle Riding Stables near Sandygate run by Mr & Mrs Marshall where he established friendships with Mike Germon, who lived in Exeter Road, and Tim Norman, from Ashcombe. All three went on to become professional jockeys.

When he embarked on a career as a jockey Major Peter Cazalet and Arthur Freeman mentored Neil as an apprentice. He rode his first winner for Norfolk trainer Jack Bloom, on Scottish Black Mail in a selling hurdle at Fakenham on Whit Monday, May 22, 1961.

Back in Devon he played a key role in his father’s training business which was located in Church Street, Kingsteignton.  In 1962 a young Mark Prescott arrived at their Kingsteignton yard to gain experience. Today Mark is better known as Newmarket trainer Sir Mark Prescott, who, when talking about his career, recalled walking into the Kernick’s yard aged 14, “and embarking on the happiest two and a half years of my life".

Neil’s father trained around ten jumpers and supplemented his income breaking in difficult horses.  Most of his customers were local farmers and businessmen who fancied dabbling in the “sport of kings,” whilst getting their horses trained as cheaply as possible. With no training track, Sid, Neil, and others who liked to help out at the stables, would often be seen hacking along Rydon Road, which was then just a country lane. Friendly farmers, some of whom were customers, allowed Sid to stretch his charges with a gallop around their fields.

With rides on horses such as these Neil rode just 19 winners in his first 10 years as a jockey. However, when Kingsbridge based trainer David Barons took him on as understudy to Bob Davies for the 1969/70 campaign Neil rode 24 winners in that one season, more than in all the previous years added together, which showed what having access to better rides can do for a jockey. His wins included his most important success on Solomon II in Wincanton’s Kingwell Hurdle on February 25th, 1970, when he bettered the great Terry Biddlecombe on the odds-on favourite Coral Diver, winning by a head. A month later he won the Ansells Brewery Handicap Hurdle at Hereford on Kelanne.

Perhaps, Neil’s greatest success at a meeting came when riding for Barons at Chepstow on Saturday, November 29th, 1969 where he won the last four races on the card: the Pintail Handicap Chase on Foxtor, the Grebe Handicap Hurdle on Irish Laurel, the Mallard Handicap Chase on Follower, and the Widgeon Handicap Hurdle on Solomon ll.

In 1970 Neil won a Chepstow novice chase on Mac Vidi who in 1980 became the oldest horse ever to place in the Cheltenham Gold Cup when he was runner up to Master Smudge.

After his association with David Barons ended the supply of good horses dried up and it was back to single-figure seasonal totals per season. His best score was eight in 1973/74.  Neil had one ride in the Grand National on Richeleau. The horse was trained by his father and owned by F R Cook, but it fell at the first fence in 1973 resulting in a broken collar bone for Neil.

On his father’s death in 1982, Neil relinquished his riding licence, took over the training licence, and sold the Church Street yard to buy a property near Buckfastleigh. As a trainer he had his first wins on the flat with Top of the Mark at Bath and over the jumps with Bargello Son in 1983.

However, winners proved hard to come by and the death of his principal owner, the arrival of the financial downturn and the subsequent soaring interest rates obliged him to hand in his licence in 1987.

 Neil Kernick died in Mount Olivet Nursing Home in Paignton, Devon on February 25th  2022. He was 79 and had been in poor health for many years.