Goodisson, Thomas


1782-1840

Tom, son of Classic winning jockey Richard, was just 12 when he had his first ride on the Duke of Bedford’s colt Cub at the Newmarket Houghton Meeting of 1794. 

The next year, just 13 and able to weigh-in at 4 stone, he was engaged by his father’s old owner, the Duke of Queensberry, to ride Pecker in what became a famous match against Benington, the property of a Mr Wilson. The stakes were 500 guineas a side and the race was set to be run over 4 miles of the Beacon Course at Newmarket. Tom was up against an experienced jockey and his father Richard rode alongside him over the last mile, giving advice. Tom won.

He went on to become a fine rider and great judge of pace, and his riding came to the attention of the Duke of York (the second son of George 111). Tom won the 1822 Derby for him on Moses – he also  won more big races in the lifetime of his principal patron the Duke of York than almost any other jockey.

Tom was particularly lucky when riding for dukes – he won the 1815 Derby for the Duke of Grafton. His final Classic total was seven.

Thomas died on May 29, 1840, at Newmarket. His brother Charles died on May 6, 1813, aged 27.

Tom dabbled in breeding after quitting the saddle, and, in 1813, bred Nancy, the dam of Muley Moloch, an impressive, above-average colt blessed with both stamina and speed that  won at all distances.

Owner Sir Charles Bunbury gave jockey Tom Goodisson a ten-pound note for winning the 1810 Derby on the black colt Smolensko adding that he would have given him more had not a bookmaker, called Brograve, cut his throat instead of paying out his losses on the Derby.

Extraordinarily, this was not the first time a bookmaker had taken such drastic action.

After Pretender had won the 1869 Derby, John Stephenson committed the very same act. The rumour quickly circulated that he had lost heavily on the result and that he could not cover his losses, but nothing could be further from the truth. 

Stephenson, an alcoholic and violent bully, had actually informed his friends that he intended to kill himself. He had, he said, already tried. He had that very week wandered into a field to end his life, but there were a lot of ruffians about who would have picked his pockets and mutilated his body, so he put it off.

The truth emerged after his death. All his life he had suffered from epilepsy, probably inherited from his mother who had finished up in a mad-house (Stephenson had often lain unconscious for up to an hour).  He also had a brain disorder, greatly aggravated by the consumption of alcohol.

He would have had little control over his actions.

An interesting friendship developed between a little thoroughbred mare which Tom rode as a hack and a retriever which Tom owned. The jockey was fond of teaching them tricks and succeeded in teaching the mare to be led by the dog. 

The retriever would lead the mare to and fro in front of a house where Tom was making a call. As soon as Tom emerged from the house the dog would urge the mare, whose reins, passed over her head, he held in his mouth, to quicken her pace to meet him.


Tom Goodisson’s classic wins:

The Derby: Pope (1809, Smolensko (1813), Whisker (1815) and Moses (Thurs May 23,1822)

The Oaks: Music (1813)and Minuet (1815)

St Leger: Barefoot (1823)




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