The late Paddy Woods

Funeral details of Ratoath native and top jockey who rode the legendary Arkle, Paddy Woods

The death has occurred of Paddy Woods, one of the jockeys associated with the great racehorse, Arkle. He was in his 94th year.

Paddy will repose at Mc Entaggart’s Funeral Home, Ratoath (A85 DW27) from 3pm until 7pm today (Friday). Funeral Mass on Saturday at 11am in the Holy Trinity Church, Ratoath, followed by cremation in Dardistown Crematorium.

Further details of Paddy's funeral can be found on

Paddy was the work rider for the greatest and most popular steeplechaser of all time, trained by Tom Dreaper at Greenogue, outside Ashbourne, and winner of three Cheltenham Gold Cups in the 1960s.

Owned by Anne, Duchess of Westminster, Arkle’s most famous rider was Pat Taaffe, and other jockeys associated with the racehorse were Liam McLoughlin, who rode the 20/1 outsider to his first ever race win in January 1962 in Navan, Mark Hely Hutchinson, and TP Burns, as well as Woods. Woods rode Arkle, popularly known as ’Himself’ in the President’s Handicap Hurdle at Gowran Park in October 1962.

Himself was after having a few disappointing runs, including a loss to Lord Fingall’s Anthony, which was ridden by Kildalkey’s Frank Carroll at Fairyhouse. Pat Taaffe wasn’t able to do the weight that day.

It turned out to be Arkle’s last hurdle race, and he started 9-2 joint favourite, winning by five lengths.

“There was a big field , including Mick Ennis on Dan Moore’s Tripacer,” Woods recalled later. “On front of the stands, Arkle was flying. I was off the bit. Over the far side at Gowran, on the hill, I had to push him a bit and then he took off about three out - I didn’t hear any of the rest of them afterwards. He flattened the last fence.” Arkle was badly cut in that race, Woods recalled, and was bleeding a great deal, and the stewards agreed that he needed attention straight away rather than go for the routine dope test. The following month, Himself was off to Cheltenham to begin his chasing career.

Between 1962 and 1966, he was to win 22 of his 26 chases, including the Cheltenham Gold Cup three times, Hennessy Gold Cup twice, Whitbread Gold Cup, King George VI Chase and the Irish Grand National, before injury ended his career early.

Ratoath native Paddy Woods was an integral part of the Dreaper set-up, having previously worked with DL Moore at Fairyhouse, and Charlie Rogers at Balfestown, where he met his late wife, Phyllis. Tom Dreaper gave him a site on his farm to build a house, where he and Phyllis still lived after rearing their family of eight.

He recalled the widowed Duchess of Westminster’s frequent trips to Greenogue to visit Tom Dreaper and her horses, and he often drove her from the house to the horses. She was a good humoured, natural woman who knew her horses, he said. And he recalled all the visitors who started to arrive at Greenogue to see the wonder horse.

“Arkle loved all the attention,” Paddy Woods says. “He enjoyed the visitors and the kids. And in England, he loved the attention. He was invited to the Horse of the Year Show in 1969, and I travelled with him - the crowds and the attention bet all, and he loved it.”

Woods was involved with the local running club, which he originally formed at Fairyhouse, and later moved to Kilsallaghan. Arkle was in big demand for public appearances, and in 1965, he asked the Duchess could he organise an appearance by the horse in Tolka Park stadium. “The Duchess gave her permission, and I drove Arkle down in the box. I got Pat to come down and ride him round the pitch a few times, and we raised enough money to build a clubhouse - which of course we named the Arkle Pavilion.”

He remembered a time when flying home from a Cheltenham meeting, that the horse ate some of the wires in the airplane, causing an emergency landing. “The race was at 3pm, and we were supposed to be home by 7.30pm. It was 4am in the morning when we got back,” Woods says, and Phyllis was anxiously waiting with her new born son, Edward.

Paddy spent 15 years in Dreapers, before taking up training himself. He enjoyed success in the Conyngham Cup at Punchestown and the Ladies Cup, and in the Kerry Grand National with Beech King. As a jockey, he won two Fairyhouse Nationals, on Last Link and Splash for Tom Dreaper, while his son Francis, now based at Rathbarry Stud in Cork, also won two Irish nationals as a jockey. His other son, Edward, is training in Florida, and Paddy and Phyllis also have six daughters, Margaret, Siobhán, Suzanne, Francis, Ann, Elizabeth and Charlotte.

Paddy was involved in the Arkle Memorial Committee, which was behind the statue to Himself erected in Ashbourne, and was one of those involved with the legendary racehorse who was invited to meet Queen Elizabeth II at the National Stud during her historic visit to Ireland.

A keen Meath GAA fan, he was a familiar figure at the county side’s matches. Paddy was also a founder of St Andrew’s AC.

He retired from his job with Gain in 2012 at the age of 82.