Coleman Calls it Day: Grade 1 Winning Rider Retires from the Saddle

Less than a month after the retirement of Paisley Park, following his final outing at the Cheltenham Festival, the news came that the rider with whom the horse was most associated had also competed in his last race.

Following a 17-year career in the saddle, encompassing 1,246 jumps wins and 13 Grade 1 successes, Aidan Coleman has been forced into retirement on medical advice, having failed to recover sufficiently from an injury sustained last year (2023) in a fall at Worcester on 15th June.

Career Ending Injury

At the time, Coleman likely thought his success aboard Gloire D’Athon at Southwell on 28 May, 2023 was just another win in the book. Little was he to know that it would be the final triumph of his career.

Less than a month on from that win, Coleman set off aboard Ascension Day in a maiden hurdle contest at Worcester. All appeared to be going to plan, with Coleman and his mount two lengths clear at the last – only for Ascension Day to inexplicably veer sharply to his left and plough into the wing of the hurdle. The horse escaped unscathed, but Coleman was left with a shattered tibia and taken to hospital, having been attended to by the on-course medics.

Following an agonising painkiller-free wait of around six hours, the initial prognosis offered little hope that he would ever resume his race-riding career. Returning to surgery in December 2023, Colemans’ worst fears were all but confirmed. He is now able to exercise in the gym but running remains out of the question, as does the prospect of riding a racehorse.

A devastating blow for Aidan, but the likeable rider was at least able to maintain a sense of humour when announcing his retirement, stating, “I can do the gym, but I can’t run or jump. I can’t ride a horse really. A lot of people would say I couldn’t anyway, so what’s the difference, but every time I’ve tried to ride a horse since Christmas, it’s not gone well”. With the retirement decision now confirmed, here, we take a look back at the career of one of the true gentlemen of the racecourse.

Champion Conditional and Welsh National Success … Just Don’t Mention Mon Mome

Born in Cork, Ireland in 1988, Coleman made the move to England in 2006 to pursue his riding career. Initially employed by Henrietta Knight, his first ride came aboard Silverbar at Hereford in December 2006, with his first winner coming at Uttoxeter on 17 October 2007, when partnering Tashkandi to victory.

Following his time at Henrietta Knight’s, Coleman’s next stop took him to the yard of Venetia Williams, where he served as the yard’s retained rider. Coleman enjoyed a successful time of things in Hertfordshire, including a Champion Conditional Jockey’s title in 2008/09 and a win aboard Emperor’s Choice in the 2009 Welsh Grand National.

Generally a smart decision-maker throughout his career, Coleman may be plagued by one particular decision at the Williams yard. Having ridden Mon Mome to finish 10th in the 2008 Grand National, Coleman opted to partner Stan in the 2009 addition, only to watch on as Liam Treadwell powered Mon Mome to a 100/1 victory. Coleman would never win the Grand National, coming closest when second aboard Balko Des Flos in 2021.

Leaving Williams in 2015, Coleman joined the new Bloomfields yard of John Ferguson. With the operation lasting for only one season, his stay proved to be brief, but rather successful, with a career-high tally of 129 wins seeing him finish second to Richard Johnson in the National Hunt Jockey’s Championship.

Grade 1 Glory

@thejockeyclub This horse. This pair ???? Paisley Park and Aidan Coleman ???? #horseracing #horsesoftiktok #horsesontiktok #horse ♬ original sound – Yon Yon1401

In later years, Coleman would serve as the stable jockey at the yard of Olly Murphy. Coleman picked up 122 wins for Murphy, but his most memorable moments came when taking up rides for other trainers – most notably a horse by the name of Paisley Park, from the yard of Emma Lavelle.

One of the most popular horses of the modern era, Paisley Park won 11 times during his career, and Coleman was in the saddle for all bar one of those victories. Handing Aidan his first Grade 1 success in the 2018 Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot, Paisley Park took the rider to all of the biggest stages, with the duo combining to bag three further Grade 1s, including a famous victory in the 2019 edition of the Stayers Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. Given how strongly the pair were associated with one another, it seems fitting that their retirements should come so close together.

Not that Paisley Park was Coleman’s only Grade 1-winning mount. He also forged a formidable partnership with Nicky Henderson’s star two-miler, Jonbon – winning nine times on the JP McManus-owned runner, including four successes at the highest level. In the same colours, Epatante took Coleman to wins in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle (2020, 2021) and Aintree Hurdle (2022), whilst another star mare, Put The Kettle On, shone on the biggest stage of all in the Arkle (2020) and Queen Mother Champion Chase (2021.

It may have ended far sooner than he would have liked, but Coleman can look back on a career of which the majority of riders would be envious.

Trainers Pay Tribute

Not only was Coleman a hugely talented horseman, but he also appears to have been immensely popular in the weighing room and amongst the training fraternity. News of his retirement was met with a wave of tributes from the trainers who utilised his services more than most. Venetia Williams paid tribute to his talent when stating:

We shared a lot of fantastic days, and it was great. He joined me after having only a few rides under rules and went on to be champion conditional. He was an outstanding rider, and we enjoyed many fantastic days on the racecourse and at home.

Olly Murphy provided Coleman with a note of optimism for the future, saying:

We had some great days, he rode me some great winners, and we had a good association. I wish him all the best for the future. He’s a bright lad, and I’m sure he’ll be successful with what he does next.