Three-time British Champion Jumps Jockey Brian Hughes has thrust Northern-based jockeys into the spotlight in recent years thanks to his outstanding exploits in the National Hunt sphere. However, the top northern riding talent isn’t restricted to the jumping game. The likes of Paul Mulrennan, Danny Tudhope, and Kevin Stott have all proven they have what it takes on the big stage, and in recent years, another name has been added to that list in the shape of Durham-born Connor Beasley.
A name which is likely already familiar to dedicated racing fans, we expect significantly more may be heard from this hugely talented rider in the coming years. Once labelled “the brightest young jockey in the country” by no less a judge than Mick Fitzgerald, the Connor Beasley story has already been more dramatic than most. Here, we take a look at the rollercoaster journey which has taken this naturally gifted horseman to the peaks of success, depths of serious injury, and back again.
Racing in the Blood
It’s fair to say that Connor Beasley was born into the racing game. Grandfather Bobby Beasley served as the assistant trainer to Arthur Stephenson and is cited as a key influence in getting a young Connor into the sport, whilst mother, Susan, and father, Shaun, were both work riders based in the North East of England.
By the age of six, Connor had begun accompanying his mother to the yard of Norman Mason, following the work on his first pony. Soon becoming a member of the South Durham Pony Club, Connor gained valuable early experience in pony racing, showjumping and eventing.
From Pony’s to Horses
Given his natural ability with his equine partners, it was only a matter of time before Beasley progressed to the larger animals. By the age of 14, he was riding out in the school holidays for locally-based trainer, Richard Guest.
Initially having aspirations of becoming a farrier, a failure to gain the required qualifications led to a change of tack, as Connor took up a position at the Spennymoor yard of Tracy Waggott immediately upon leaving school at 16. Having cut his teeth at Waggotts, Beasley then made the short move to Denton to join the successful Michael Dods operation.
A Bright Start
Granted his apprentice licence in 2012, Beasley rode his first winner aboard Osteopathic Remedy at Ayr on the 21st of September 2012 – given what would befall Connor three years down the line, the name of that first winner would prove rather apt.
Beasley picked up just one more winner in his debut season but was soon on an upward trajectory – increasing his tally to 34 in 2013 and 61 in 2014. Having ridden out his claim, Connor joined the professional ranks and was widely recognised as one of the most promising young riders in the sport. And then disaster struck.
Horror Fall at Wolves
Setting off aboard the Bryan Smart-trained Cumbrianna in the Wolverhampton Tips @ bookies.com Handicap on the 7th of July 2015, Beasley was likely expecting little more than a run-of-the-mill outing in this six-furlong event. Sadly, just off the entrance to the bend into the home straight, Cumbrianna clipped heels with a rival and suffered a fatal injury. With his mount collapsing to the all-weather surface, Connor simply had nowhere to go, being plunged head-first into the ground and trampled by the chasing pack.
It was a horrific incident all around and it left Connor with a fractured skull, a brain haemorrhage, and fractured vertebrae. Having been airlifted to hospital, the young rider underwent a 10-hour operation which involved the insertion of six plates into his skull. Thankfully out of the woods in what was a life-threatening situation, Connor endured three months in a full neck and back brace whilst his body healed fully.
Made of Stern Stuff
Incredibly, given all he has been through, Connor’s dedication, in combination with significant help from his family and the Injured Jockeys Fund, meant that he was back in the saddle on the 26th of March 2016 – only a little over 10 months after that fateful fall at Wolves.
And, just one month later, Beasley was back on board another Bryan Smart-trained runner and back into the Winners’ Enclosure when guiding Alpha Delphini to a hugely popular success at Musselburgh.
The Only Way is Up
Soon back into the groove of regularly riding winners, Beasley picked up 60 successes in his comeback season and a solid 51 in 2017. Fast forward to 2021, and those numbers had improved to 72, followed by a career-best effort of 90 in 2022. 2023 saw a slight dip to 65, but, now firmly back into the swing of things – and benefitting from a steady stream of quality mounts from main employer Michael Dods – it would be no surprise to see Connor Beasley force his way into the 100+ club in the coming seasons.
Showing the steely resolve to bounce back from such a significant injury must count as one of the finest achievements in his career, but Connor has also compiled an impressive list of accomplishments on the track – many of which have come in the years following his return to the saddle:
- Over 550 career wins
- 14 Listed race wins
- Two Group 3 Successes in the Coral Bengough Stakes (2020) and bet365 Hackwood Stakes (2023)
- Wins back-to-back editions of the Stewards’ Cup aboard Commanche Falls in 2021 and 2022
- Equalled the modern-day record for the most wins aboard the same horse at York when partnering Dakota Gold to a sixth success at the track in the Churchill Tyres Handicap in May 2022