MOST pundits acknowledge that the word 'champion' is used far too freely in the horse racing world.
Not so when talking about Pat Eddery.
The champion Irish jockey passed away this week after a long illness. He was sixty-three.
Eddery's passing might have occurred halfway across the world and his excellence might belong to a bygone era, but the measure of his outstanding ability in the tough world of top level race riding is well worth acknowledging here.
Eddery was British champion jockey 11 times (the same number as Lester Piggott) between 1974 and 1996. He rode 14 Classic winners in Britain (including three Derbys), 11 Classic winners in Ireland and five Classic winners in France.
He won the Prix de l'Arc De Triomphe no less than four times. In 1975, Eddery completed the Derby and King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes double on Grundy, who he also piloted to success in both the Irish 2000 Guineas and Irish Derby.
In America, Eddery won the Breeder's Cup Turf, the Breeder's Cup Sprint and the Arlington Million. He won the Canadian International Stakes. He won a Japan Cup ... and so the list goes on.
In British Flat racing alone, he rode 4632 winners. This at a time when his rivals included names such as Lester Piggott, Steve Cauthen and Willie Carson, or, as one racing scribe called it, 'an era of superstars.'
Only Sir Gordon Richards rode more winners and was champion more times than Eddery.
Eddery was associated with many top quality thoroughbreds including the likes of Bosra Sham, Dancing Brave, Detroit, El Gran Senor, Golden Fleece, Grundy, King's Lake, Lomond, Pebbles, Rainbow Quest, Silver Partriarch, Trempolino and Zafonic.
He was number one jockey for trainer Vincent O'Brien and owner Robert Sangster when they were at the height of their respective powers ... as he was for Dancing Brave's owner Khalid Abdullah.
Too much like a history lesson? And a British one at that?
Well, if it is, it is a history lesson which gives us a timely reminder of racing's rich tradition and the stars, both human and equine, who helped forge it.
While there is no future in living in the past, to take a brief step away from the modern day rush hour ... where a race has to go off every four minutes somewhere in the country to keep shareholders happy somewhere in the country ... can be a rewarding exercise.
If you know some of the horses names mentioned above go to Google or YouTube and relive some of those famous moments. If they were before your time, do the same and give yourself a treat.
And if you will, just watch Eddery's fairly unique riding style. It was not pretty and you won't find it in any race riding manual but, then again, few can argue with the results of his endeavours.