John Ciechanowski, Vice President of the Amateur Jockeys Association of Great Britain and a pioneer of amateur racing, died this morning at home in East Garston with his family close by.


Of Polish descent, John escaped his home country with the invasion of the Germans and Russians when he was 17.  Advised to escape to the East, he managed to reach Warsaw before boarding a train to Austria and Italy, eventually rejoining his parents in Paris.  During the brief campaign when Germany attacked France, John joined the Polish army and reached England, before the Polish army reformed to join the Allied attack on the Normandy beaches.


John rode for many years all over Europe, receiving the Fegentri Silver Spur in 1967 and both the Golden and Silver Spur in 1968.  He was widely travelled and fluent in several languages, having trained in Brazil and lived in Ireland (working for Vincent O’Brien) and France, before settling in England.    John was the first European to venture out to Dubai and was instrumental in the introduction of thoroughbred racing there.  In the early 1980s he was also the only trainer in Berkshire to train for a Sheikh, when he acted as private trainer to Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum.


John rode out regularly for Barry Hills, Noel Chance and Mick Channon in recent years before retiring from the saddle, reluctantly, only about 18 months ago.  Fitter than most people of half his age, John rode in the charity race at Newbury in 2005 at the age of 83 and raised thousands of pounds for Spinal Injuries. 


John will always be remembered as the most modest of men, a cultured gentleman amateur rider who held strong views and was never happier than when in the saddle.  He leaves a son and a granddaughter as well as many nephews and nieces, one of his nieces following his path as an amateur rider.  He also leaves a host of friends worldwide and will be much missed.

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