Mick Fitzgerald has paid tribute to Paul Barber following his death at the age of 80, describing his Cheltenham Gold Cup victory aboard the leading owner’s See More Business as “one of my proudest days in the saddle”.
The landlord of 14-time champion trainer Paul Nicholls, Barber was a passionate supporter of jumps racing and enjoyed numerous big-race successes, both in his own name or in partnership with others.
The Nicholls-trained duo See More Business and Denman both landed Cheltenham Gold Cup glory for Barber, while in recent years, he was a joint-owner of dual King George VI Chase hero Clan Des Obeaux.
Barber was also known for the family’s dairy and cheese production business, but it was See More Business who took him to the pinnacle of National Hunt racing in 1999 when Fitzgerald steered the first real staying star of Nicholls’ Ditcheat operation to a one-length success over Go Ballistic.
“I was very lucky to ride a Gold Cup winner for Paul and I know what it meant to him,” said Fitzgerald.
“Being on top of See More Business when Paul was leading him into the winner’s enclosure that day after winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup is a memory that will live forever for me. It’s one of my proudest days in the saddle and I was just privileged to be allowed to ride the horse.
“I know what it meant to him to have a Gold Cup winner and I think that is how I would like to remember Paul Barber.
“He was a man who loved what Paul Nicholls did at Ditcheat, he was very proud of what Paul achieved – I know that. They were very good friends as well as Paul being a tenant and I know it meant an awful lot to him to have Paul as his trainer and he took a lot of pride in Paul being champion trainer so many times as well.
“I feel for (his wife) Marianne and the whole Barber family at this time.”
Sam Thomas was the man aboard Denman when he stormed to the Cheltenham Gold Cup for Barber and co-owner Margaret Findley, mother of pro-punter Harry, in 2008 and remembers a “gentleman” who was “a pleasure to ride for”.
“My thoughts are with his wife and all the immediate family and friends,” said Thomas.
“My association with Mr Barber was obviously through Paul (Nicholls) and you couldn’t wish to meet a nicer gentleman, he was a pleasure to ride for and a real honour to ride for him.
“He had See More Business as well (as Denman) and I’m sure they both would have given Mr Barber an enormous thrill and he was always such a pleasure to ride for.”