Joe Childs

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Joe Childs
Joe Childs, frontispiece of Baily's Magazine, 1921.png
Joe Childs on the cover of Baily's Magazine, 1921
Chantilly, France
Portsmouth, England
Major racing wins
British Classic Race wins as jockey:
1,000 Guineas (1928, 1933)
2,000 Guineas (1918, 1931)
Epsom Oaks (1912, 1916, 1919, 1921)
Epsom Derby (1916, 1918, 1926)
St. Leger (1918, 1921, 1925, 1926)
British Triple Crown (1918)
Significant horses
Coronach, Fifinella, Gainsborough, Solario

Joseph "Joe" Childs (1884–1958) was a French-born, British-based flat racing jockey. He won fifteen British Classics in a 35-year career, the last ten years of which were spent as jockey to King George V. He was known for riding a slow, waiting race, and also for having a short temper which regularly saw him at odds with his trainers and owners.

Early life[edit]

Childs was born in Chantilly into a racing family. His father had ridden successfully in France, and his grandfather had worked at the stables of Peter Price in Newmarket. There were also four brothers – Albert, Arthur, Charles and Henry – who all became jockeys. Joe would go on to be the foremost of these, but Charles would win the 1916 St. Leger on Hurry On, two years before Joe himself won it. Albert became a trainer in Marseilles, France.[1]

Childs was married to Emily Lavis (1887–1914) like Childs she was from a racing family, born in Chantilly and the daughter of racing trainer Alfred James Lavis, they had one child Joey who died in 1916.


Apprenticeship (1900–1902)[edit]

Childs spent his apprenticeship at Phantom House, Newmarket, the stables of trainer, Tom Jennings Jr.[2] His first winner came for Jennings in 1900 at the now defunct Lincoln Racecourse on a horse called Lady Alicia. He was aged just 16. The following year he took a step up, winning the Royal Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot on Stealaway and the final November Handicap to be run at the New Barns course in Manchester before it was relocated. In 1902, he won the valuable Great Metropolitan Handicap at Epsom and the Goodwood Cup. Yet, despite these wins, he was beginning to struggle to get rides. He no longer qualified for the apprentice weight allowance, which made him a less attractive proposition as a jockey.[3] In response to this problem, Jennings arranged for him to spend some time in Europe.

In Europe (1903–1913)[edit]

The first French trainer for whom Childs rode was Maurice Caillault.[4] However, the quick temper which would come to mark his career cost him his job with Caillaut, as it would do with the owner Duc de Gramont and during a short lived spell at an Italian stable.[3]

He was back and forth across the Channel for a couple of years before he finally found success on a third spell in France. Deputising for the sidelined George Bellhouse, he won the 1908 Grand Prix de Paris for owner William K. Vanderbilt on Northeast.[4] The following year he won the 1909 renewal on board Verdun for Prince Murat[3] and he began to surge ahead with his career. In 1908, he had ridden 75 winners; in 1909, 90.[4]

His next battle was with his weight. This problem was solved with a move to Germany to ride for the von Weinbergs, with a contract that was not dependent on his meeting a specific weight.[3] The Weinberg brothers' trainer was Fred Darling and Childs formed a partnership with that trainer which would provide him with some of his most memorable victories, although given Childs' temper the relationship was often stormy.[3][4]

He was based back in France in 1912,[4] when he won his first Classic on Mirska for his old trainer, Tom Jennings. His successful spell in Europe, though, was cut short by the advent of World War I. He escaped France on the last train before the Germans arrived and had to leave all his possessions behind.[3]

Portrait of Joe Childs (1923) by Sir John Lavery (1856–1941)

War years and beyond (1914–1924)[edit]

During the war, Childs initially joined the Royal Flying Corps but not taking to the disciplined regime he transferred to the 4th Hussars. Generously, they allowed him a good deal of leave so he could meet riding commitments.[3]

This allowed him to partner the top class filly Fifinella in her classic year of 1916. It has been suggested he threw away a winning chance on her when she was 11/10 favourite for the 1,000 Guineas, hitting her as she played up in the stalls. As a result she sulked during the race and failed to perform.[5] Her finest moments, however, were yet to come. In the substitute Derby[a] of that year, into which she had been entered because that year's crop of colts was so weak, she again acted obstreperously. This time however, she deigned to respond to Childs and in the final furlong he poked through a gap to win by a neck.[5] She went on to be only the fourth, and to date, last, filly to do the Oaks-Derby double.

In 1918 even better was to come for Childs on the colt Gainsborough. Trained by Alec Taylor Jr. in Manton, Wiltshire, Gainsborough won the 2,000 Guineas, Derby and St. Leger with Childs as the jockey, becoming one of the few horses to have won the British Triple Crown. He would later repay the Hussars by donating his riding fees for 1918 to the regiment, including those for Gainsborough.[2][3] Taylor would be one of the trainers for whom Childs would continue to ride after the war.

In 1919 he rode Bayuda to victory in the Oaks for Lady Douglas. He also rode Buchan, the odds-on favourite, for Lord Astor in the 1919 St. Leger, but got beaten. A dispute with Astor's racing manager over the matter meant he never rode for Astor again.[5] In 1921, Childs became stable jockey to Cecil Boyd-Rochfort.[6] The next few years were quieter by comparison with the big race victories of the war years, but he still won an Oaks on Love in Idleness (1921) for Joseph Watson (later Baron Manton), who had purchased the Manton estate, a St Leger on Polemarch (1921) and a July Cup on Golden Corn (1923).

Royal Jockey (1925–1935)[edit]

From 1925 until his retirement in 1935, Childs would be jockey to King George V whose horses were trained by William Rose Jarvis. Childs would refer to the King as 'My Guv'nor' and would toast him with champagne every time he won on one of his horses.[5] In the King's colours he would have 'the proudest moment of his life'[4] when he won the 1929 1,000 Guineas on Scuttle. As a reward, the King presented Childs with a cane, which would become his most treasured possession.[5] The 'best race he ever rode'[3] was for the King too – the 1933 Hardwicke Stakes on Limelight.

Childs won the 1926 Derby on Coronach for one of his long standing trainers, Fred Darling, one of the few trainers who could handle him.[5] The horse's aristocratic owner was Lord Woolavington. Childs and Coronach won the race with an uncharacteristically fast, front-running performance, Childs being known as a 'hold up' jockey. This resulted in a famous post-race comment, "The bastard ran away with me".[2][5] No jockey would win a Derby with the same front running tactic until Steve Cauthen on Slip Anchor in 1985.[7]

By the end of his career Childs was often found riding for Cecil Boyd-Rochfort and it was for him he rode his last classic winner – Brown Betty in the 1933 1,000 Guineas. Childs had by this time mellowed considerably with age.[8] His final winner was at Derby in November 1935 and in December of that year he was invited to Buckingham Palace at the request of the King. In all, Childs had achieved 15 British Classic wins, two Grand Prix de Paris and one French Derby.

Gainsborough, the horse on which Childs won the Triple Crown

Riding style[edit]

Childs was a tall jockey, described as "lithe and beetle-browed"[8] These 'beetles' – his dark, bushy eyebrows – were said to give "broody, bellicose expression to a hair-trigger temper."[5] In turn, the temper was one of the defining characteristics of his racecourse performances. He would regularly argue with officials, once reportedly accusing a steward of lying: "You were not at the gate and could not have seen the incident as you stated you did."[5]

The other characteristic of his racing was the way he tended to win a race with "a well-timed rush".[2] He is described as "The most fanatical exponent of waiting".[9] or, put less favourably, "A waiting race was the only one he could ride"[4] This "lack of versatility"[4] is cited as the one thing that prevented Childs being a really great jockey.


On retirement he managed Portsmouth Greyhound Stadium and dabbled in horse ownership with trainer George Digby.[8] He also kept a small stud at Nazeing in Essex.[4] He published an autobiography, My Racing Reminiscences in 1952 and died in Portsmouth in 1958.[10] In 1999, more than 40 years after his death, he was ranked 11th in the Racing Post list of Top 50 jockeys of the 20th century.[11] John Crouch was appointed as king's jockey when Child's retired.[12]

Major wins[edit]

Classic races[edit]

United Kingdom Great Britain

France France

Selected other races (incomplete)[edit]

United Kingdom Great Britain

France France



  1. ^ The wartime Oaks and Derbies were run at Newmarket


  1. ^ "Ex-trainer Pat Taylor dies at 85". The Racing Post. 18 July 2000. Retrieved 23 April 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d "Childs, Joseph (1884–1958)". National Horseracing Museum. Retrieved 30 April 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Wright 1986, p. 56.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Mortimer, Onslow & Willett 1978, p. 122.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i Tanner & Cranham 1992, p. 130.
  6. ^ "Boyd-Rochfort, Cecil Charles (Sir) (1887–1983)". National Horseracing Museum. Retrieved 30 April 2013.
  7. ^ Tanner & Cranham 1992, p. 217.
  8. ^ a b c Wright 1986, p. 57.
  9. ^ Tanner & Cranham 1992, p. 159.
  10. ^ "Obituary: Joe Childs". Manchester Evening News. 17 May 1999.
  11. ^ "Richards is in a class of his own; A century of racing – 50 greatest flat jockeys". The Racing Post. 17 May 1999. Retrieved 23 April 2013.
  12. ^ "The King's jockey abroad". Western Morning News (24794). 21 June 1939. p. 7 – via British Newspaper Archive.


  • Mortimer, Roger; Onslow, Richard; Willett, Peter (1978). Biographical Encyclopaedia of British Racing. Macdonald and Jane. ISBN 0 354 08536 0.
  • Tanner, Michael; Cranham, Gerry (1992). Great Jockeys of the Flat. Guinness Publishing. ISBN 0-85112-989-7.
  • Wright, Howard (1986). The Encyclopaedia of Flat Racing. Robert Hale. ISBN 0-7090-2639-0.

External links[edit]