Mark “Archie” Birch is a legend of Northern Racing and British racing. 1339 winners ridden and his partnership with Peter Easterby was one of the most formidable in racing history. Archie is probably best remembered for his association with the legendary Sea Pigeon, who he rode to victory in the back to back Chester Cups. He was dominant in the north during his era, being crowned “Cock O The North” on seven occasions, an award for the winningmost jockey in the north.
After such a distinguished career in the saddle, Archie was a massive factor and help when Kevin took out his training licence. Knowing that he was looking to train, Archie had heard about Hambleton Lodge and subsequently ensured Kevin went to see the yard. Once Kevin had taken over in 1998, Archie was right there behind him, helping out every day and he would say, running the place. Once riding out was taken out of the equation, Archie turned his hand to keeping the yard in check, as well as the young staff who he loved to help and mentor. All of his knowledge and wisdom was passed down and whoever was lucky enough to be around Archie would leave a far more educated person thanks to his help. Archie was like everyone’s grandad in the yard, giving out plenty of b********gs but always keeping a watchful eye over everyone.
Sadly Archie passed away following a short battle with cancer and his death certainly left a big hole at Hambleton Lodge. His wife, Joyce, is still a regular visitor to the yard keeping her eye on the place and making sure Kevin always has a chestnut with a white blaze in the yard, that is her minimum requirement for supporting Kevin’s runners!! In recent months there has been another member of the family that has become a frequent visitor to the yard. Whilst Joyce turns up with cakes and sausage rolls for the staff Jill, their daughter, is fully kitted out with body protector and skull cap. The reason for this is that she is participating in the Macmillan Race Of Their Lives charity race at York, Saturday 16th June.
Jill Boak has been in training for the event for the past year and the hard work is really paying off. Most people will look and think that she is out of place in this race because the daughter of a legend must have ridden racehorses before. Yes she has ridden on and off since being a young girl but the racing side was something totally new. Starting from the very beginning, Jill’s drive soon saw her improving thanks to help from Kevin and Tim Easterby as well as the invaluable coaching each rider receives from the BHA qualified jockey’s coaches.
Obviously the whole cause is great and not only does it allow the participants to realise just how it feels to ride in front of a packed out grandstand at one of England’s premier tracks but it raises money for an amazing cause. Sadly Archie faced a battle with cancer but in typical fashion he did so with bravery and dignity. For Jill this is a great way to raise money but also pay tribute to her dad. York was one of Archie’s favourite tracks and he never missed a meeting so it is a very poignant tribute. Jill is aiming to raise £10 for every winner that Archie rode which in total is £13,390. So if you have ever won a few quid on one of Mark Birch’s winners or one of Kevin’s or if you can just spare a couple of pound then please click on the link below and donate. It is for a wonderful cause and for one day only we will get to witness the spirit of Mark “Archie” Birch riding down the Knavesmire as Jill gets the leg up on the race of her life!!!
To Donate please click on the link – justgiving.com/fundraising/Ji…