Horse Racing & Snooker Players: A Match Made in Heaven

Horse racing has long been known for attracting interest from professionals in other sports and this is undoubtedly the case where snooker is concerned.

Many top snooker players have developed a strong passion for horse racing, with the latter providing them with a bolthole away from the pressures of their own sport.

Read on as we take a closer look at how some stars of the green baize have forged strong links with the horse racing industry in recent years.

Peter Ebdon

After turning professional in 1991, Peter Ebdon went on to become the scourge of online bookmakers through his exploits in the sport.

He was a 33/1 shot on Snooker World Championship betting sites to win the title in 2002, but upset the odds to record an 18-17 victory over Stephen Hendry.

Ebdon also fuelled his love for horse racing by launching Designer Pedigrees, a breeding operation which produced numerous big race winners.

A recent project has involved Ebdon utilising his comprehensive knowledge of thoroughbred families to help source mares for 2016 St Leger Stakes winner Harbour Law.

Ebdon has invested significant personal resources into researching the bloodlines of successful horses to identify patterns he can use for future breeding projects.

In addition to his involvement in horse racing, Ebdon has retained an interest in snooker by working as a coach and mentor to several top players including Kyren Wilson.

Jack Lisowski

Ebdon has also played an influential role in Jack Lisowski’s snooker career in recent years and their link-up has paid off with the latter improving under his tutelage.

Lisowski reached his first World Snooker Championship quarter-final in 2022 and could be a good bet to match that feat this time around.

Away from the snooker table, the Cheltenham-born star has also developed an interest in horse racing – a point perfectly evidenced in November 2018.

Lisowski was given a taste of life in the saddle by testing his jockey skills on a horse racing simulator under the guidance of Cheltenham Festival winning jockey Ryan Hatch.

While Lisowski’s riding style left a lot to be desired, Hatch was able to pass on some useful pointers that helped him improve during the session.

Lisowski subsequently played in the World Grand Prix which was staged at the racecourse that season, but was knocked out in the first round by Ding Junhui.

John Parrott

John Parrott won nine ranking titles during his illustrious career before establishing himself as one of the most respected pundits on the snooker circuit.

His most famous successes came in 1991 when he won the World Championship and UK Championship. Only six players have achieved the feat in the same calendar year.

Parrott is also a massive fan of horse racing and once famously said that if he was allowed just one week of sport per year he would watch the Cheltenham and Grand National Festivals.

He first attended the latter meeting as a 14-year-old and subsequently had the opportunity to commentate on the world’s most famous steeplechase.

In an interview with Racing TV in 2020, Parrott identified Martin Pipe and AP McCoy as his favourite ever trainer and jockey combination.

Parrott is clearly a good judge, with the pair proving to be a torn in the side of the bookmakers during their hugely successful time together.

John Virgo

John Virgo’s career highlight was winning the UK Championship at Preston in 1979, but he is perhaps more commonly known for his work on snooker game show Big Break.

Presented by comedian Jim Davidson, the programme was a massive hit with viewers during what was a golden age for snooker on the television.

Virgo’s love of horse racing has been well-documented, with one visit to Chester Racecourse in 1982 proving to be the highlight of his association with the sport.

He backed a couple of big winners during the meeting, scooping nearly as much from the bookies as the winner of the snooker word title earned at the time.

Virgo admitted in his autobiography that his gambling once threatened to spiral out of control, and he now only wagers occasionally on horse racing.

Famed for living a high-rolling lifestyle with his friend Willie Thorne, the 77-year-old cites his second wife as a key influence in keeping him on the straight and narrow.

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