Jamie Spencer announces shock retirement from race riding
Jamie Spencer will retire from riding at the end of the current season to take up a new role with Qatar Racing Ltd.
The 34-year-old, who has twice been crowned champion jockey in Britain as well as once in Ireland, is currently retained rider for the powerful operation but will work closely alongside Sheikh Fahad Al Thani and his bloodstock advisor David Redvers providing feedback and advice on their horses from 2015.
Spencer said: "This is a fantastic opportunity and if I have learned anything in my riding career it is that you should take such opportunities when they come along.
"As much as I love race riding, it is not something I want to do for the rest of my life and while I am not necessarily ready to retire now, I feel at a stage when I am ready for a change.
"I really enjoy being part of the Qatar Racing team, working with Sheikh Fahad, David and everyone in the team, and so the opportunity to continue that and at the same time start the next chapter in my career appealed to me."
Spencer burst onto the scene when winning the Irish 1,000 Guineas aboard Tarascon back in 1998 at the age of just 17, and has enjoyed plenty of big-race winners during a career that also saw him spend the 2004 season as stable rider for Aidan O'Brien.
He famously shared the British crown with Seb Sanders in 2007 in a battle that went right to the last day and bagged British Classic success with the likes of 2003 St Leger hero Brian Boru and 2009 Oaks winner Sariska.
Spencer said: "This has been a big decision and not one I have taken lightly. My priority is my family, and thinking of them and their future has played a key part in my decision. I feel I still have a lot to give to racing, and not just as a jockey.
"I would like to thank all the owners and trainers who have supported me throughout my career. I will always be grateful to them for the success I have had and the friendships built along the way."
Spencer, godson of Coolmore supremo John Magnier, has been retained rider for Qatar Racing since 2013, with Just The Judge providing a memorable first Classic success for the team when landing last year's Irish 1,000 Guineas.
Sheikh Fahad said: "I am delighted that Jamie will remain part of the team in his new role. I very much enjoy working with him and I am sure he will continue to be a great asset to Qatar Racing."
Redvers said: "Ever since we signed up Jamie he has impressed us with his commitment and contribution. He has been an invaluable team player and this new role will enable him to build on that. I am delighted that we will continue to benefit from his insight, enthusiasm and invaluable experience.
"Jamie will continue to ride for Qatar Racing for the rest of the year. With regard to riding arrangements for 2015, we hope to be in a position to clarify the plans shortly."
Spencer had his first success on Huncheon Chance at Downpatrick in 1996, and just two years later was a Classic-winning rider as Tommy Stack's Tarascon beat the O'Brien-trained Kitza by a neck.
Fozzy Stack, assistant to his father, said of the Country Tipperary-born rider: "He's been a great jockey.
"The family have known him since he was four years old and he's been a great friend to me over the years.
"We've had a couple of great days together on a professional front. Obviously Tarascon winning was a good day.
"Jamie was 17 at the time and it was a big call to put him up, but Jamie is a good rider and always was."
Sariska was trained by Michael Bell, who said: "I was admittedly shocked when he first told me, but he's taking on a new, exciting challenge and I can see his reasoning.
"He's been riding at the top level since he was 17 and while I would have loved to continue to use his services, I can understand why he's come to this decision.
"We had a lot of fun and success over the years. The two Oaks wins (English and Irish) with Sariska were obviously fantastic and the Red Evie days were great as well. The ride he gave Red Evie to win the Lockinge was phenomenal.
"In my opinion he's an outstanding jockey.
"When he's riding at his best, he's as good as anyone."