Jockey Liam Treadwell's death: We must not let it be in vain, says Sussex trainer

A racehorse trainer who was one of tragic jockey Liam Treadwell's closest allies in the sport has pleaded not to let his death be in vain.

Liam Treadwell, who has died aged 34 / Picture: Getty
Liam Treadwell, who has died aged 34 / Picture: Getty

Treadwell, who was born and raised in Arundel and attended Angmering School, was found dead last week. He was just 34 and had battled mental health problems for several years.

It's left the racing community again mourning the loss of one of their own and Findon-based trainer Nick Gifford, who had known Liam for nearly 20 years, has paid a glowing tribute, while urging all in racing to take heed of the need for people's mental health problems to be given great importance.

Treadwell made his racing debut as a teenager with a couple of rides in the 2002 season. The pick of them was a second place in the South East Hunt Club members’ race at the Ashford Valley’s Charing meeting in Kent, where he finished second on Cheater, trained by Gifford.

Nick Gifford knew Liam Treadwell for many years

Both then joined the world of licensed racing, with Treadwell becoming an apprentice on the flat before switching to jump racing, and Gifford taking over stables from his father Josh. They've remained in contact since.

Treadwell had learned how to ride at Castle Stables in Arundel where his parents, Lorraine and Mark, had both worked for trainer John Dunlop.

In recent years Treadwell had spoken openly about his battles with his mental well-being and was a great advocate for those suffering similar circumstances.

Racing pays tribute to tragic LiamHis death came less than four months after he was a pall-bearer at the funeral of his friend and former jockey James Banks, who had taken his own life.

A minute's silence has been held by jockeys and others in racing at a number of fixtures since Treadwell's death on Tuesday.

The first thing that comes to mind when Treadwell’s name is mentioned is that 100/1 win on Mon Mome in the 2009 Grand National – and the comments about his teeth made in the post-race interview by Clare Balding that earned him a lot of sympathy - and a free round of major dental work.

Gifford knew Treadwell way before he won the world’s greatest steeplechase and paid tribute to the lad who spent three years as his stable jockey.

“Liam was just an incredible lad – quiet, unassuming and an all-round gentleman. He first rode for me in a point-to-point at Charing, Kent, where he was beaten in a photo-finish, despite having no prior knowledge of the horse and little experience of race riding," said Gifford.

“I knew after that he had a bit about him. He went on to ride my first Cheltenham winner for me.

“We must remember him for being a Grand National-winning jockey – I remember shouting him home from The Elbow on that day, willing him to win.

“When Clare Balding made the comments about his teeth, he understood she was trying to be humorous and just shrugged it off. That’s just the type of lad he was. And he got a free set of gnashers out of it!

“Racing was just a day job to him. He was never arrogant and he really didn’t see himself as successful as others did.

“He was never the loudest, but he would always take time to talk to you and the owners loved him.”

In 2016 Treadwell sustained a head injury in a nasty fall at Bangor. He was unconscious for four minutes and it left him with headaches, short-term memory loss and problems with concentration. It kept him away from riding for six months.

He returned to riding and more recently had started work as an assistant trainer to Alastair Ralph.

With the link between Treadwell's fall and his mental health struggles, Gifford spoke about the need for more to be done for sportspeople who had suffered similar circumstances.

“With concussion being a well-reported subject currently – particularly in football – there certainly needs to be more support for those suffering the mental health effects of head injuries in racing," said Gifford.

“I have spoken to other jockeys over the last few days, who have experienced the same following bad concussions – one who said it took four years for him to feel ‘back to normal’.

“I hope that on the back of this – as I’m sure they will – racing will work hard to put more in place to support people feeling this way. I have already heard some great ideas."

Gifford said Treadwell would be remembered fondly by many people inside and outside racing. He added: “He will be missed by everyone – particularly his family, who were extremely close to him. If anything comes of this it’ll hopefully be that more support will be put in place to try and prevent this happening to anybody else. I hope his passing isn’t in vain.”