Born in Cork Ireland in 1970, Mick Fitzgerald grew up in County Wexford and first showed his riding skills as a junior show jumper on the pony circuit. Set on a riding career he joined the Lister yard full time at fifteen and had his first race in April 1986 at Gowran Park.
Moving on to the stables of John Hayden at Kilcullen near the Curragh, he faced a constant struggle with his weight as a Flat jockey and decided to pursue a career in National Hunt. In 1988 he moved to England and joined trainer John Jenkins soon moving on to the small yard of Richard Tucker, where he had his first success, winning by six lengths on Lover’s Secret at Ludlow.
A bleak run with few winners was then followed by a string of wins for Exeter based trainer Mrs Jackie Retter and after dieting drastically in the 1991/92 season Mick had 38 wins. He landed a long standing retainer with top trainer Nicky Henderson which proved very successful and by the 1993/4 season with 68 wins under his belt he was sixth in the table of leading jump jockeys.
In 1996 Mick rode Rough Quest to an excellent second place in the Cheltenham Gold Cup which resulted in him being made the 7/1 clear favourite for that years Grand National. Mick would be making his seventh Grand National appearance but had only once managed to complete the course. Adrift by five lengths at the last, Mick made a late challenge and went on to win by a length and a quarter.
A stewards enquiry was called for only the second time in Grand National history, to decide if Rough Quest had crossed and impeded Encore En Peu on the run in. Rough Quest’s victory was upheld and Micks quote, on live TV, that “Winning the Grand National is better than sex. This was the best twelve minutes of my life. Sex is an anti-climax after this!” was written into Grand National history.
1999 was a very good year for Mick, he won the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the King George V1 Chase, on trainer Paul Nicholls, See More Business. Despite further Grand National appearances none was as successful as his 1996 win, however he had plenty of victories riding horses such as Kauto Star and Trabolgan.
In 2006 in a fall at Market Rasen, Mick broke his neck and after surgery spent nine weeks in a surgical collar but returned to racing to win the Hennesey Cognac Gold Cup. He announced his intention to retire at the end of the 2006/7 season but as the winners were coming thick and fast decided on a compromise, he would continue his 17 year partnership with Nick Henderson but ride much less.
Due to his injury Mick retired in 2008 aged 38, TV work since has included presenting At The Races and appearances for Channel 4 Racing and the BBC.