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Dusting off cobwebs in support of great cause

At Limerick tomorrow, the fun starts after the racing.

Once the main programme concludes, 22 former jockeys will take part in a pair of two-mile Flat races in aid of the Mid West Spina Bifida Association. It was meant to be a single 18-runner grand finale, but Michael Hourigan does nothing by half.

This correspondent is on duty in the first division. Eight and a half years after Hirayna failed to retire me on a winner at Perth, I get one last chance to go out in style.

It was at the John Durkan Chase meeting at Punchestown in December that Michael asked if I would take part in this initiative, and he's not the easiest man to turn down.

"My wife is due to give birth around then," I told him, "so that might complicate matters."

"Well," he volleyed, "unless you're planning on having the baby for her, I don't see how it will."

"I don't have a horse to ride," I persisted. "We'll find one," he said conclusively, though I soon realised that what he actually meant was that I would find one.

Thankfully, Robert Tyner came to the rescue. He agreed to run Commandment and, before I knew it, I was whizzing around the same Kinsale gallops that I used to get dragged around by his father Eric's prolific 'flapping' ponies nearly 20 years ago.

Having ridden out regularly this winter for the young Clonakilty-based point-to-point handler Sinead O'Sullivan, I was starting from a reasonable level of fitness anyway. The limbs did ache after I increased the workload, but that was a small price to pay.

It's worth pointing out that, as well as the multitude of generous donations that have seen my sponsorship card soar past the required €1,000 target, Robert doesn't have another runner at Limerick tomorrow.

That means he will be going out of his way to run Commandment, so his is a fine gesture in the name of the MWSBA.

As for the race itself, the likes of Prince Erik and Action Master set a pretty high standard. Still, Commandment will love the good ground, so you never know.

It has been pointed out to me that, having not yet turned 32, it is unusual to be able to come out of any sort of 'retirement' after eight and a half years, but my response is that I started young -- and I like to think I've squeezed a lot in!

Michael's son Paul, a former colleague, is in the same boat, so at least I won't look too out of place in the team photo.

While I'm equally keen not to look out of place when we step out onto the track, as someone else made bluntly clear recently, it will hardly matter if I do.

After all, the whole thing is about raising money for a great cause, and it's not as if I am out to impress any prospective employers. Those days are long gone.

Sunday Yankee

Limerick 3.05 -- Wilde Wit Pleasure

Limerick 4.15 -- Leceile

Limerick 4.50 -- Crash

Limerick 5.20 -- Summer Star

Numbers Game

12,644 The attendance at Limerick's hugely popular students' day on Thursday.

16 Montjeu's age. The exceptional sire and Irish Derby, Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and King George hero succumbed to septicaemia at Coolmore Stud on Thursday.

50Days' ban that Richard Hughes must complete after failing to get a draconian sanction -- picked up in India for not riding to instructions -- overturned in London.

Quote of the week

"For the last five years AP (McCoy) has been saying I'm off my rocker riding over jumps. I've always had to work hard to keep weight on and since my fall at Southwell even more so. When I got back from the hospital, I was 9st 12lb, now I'm 8st 12lb. I can't really face the gym to put a stone back on, so I'm going on the Flat. I don't know if I can be top five or six, but I'm so focused. Am I winding down my career? No chance" -- Jump jockey Graham Lee on his decision to switch codes.

Three things we

learned this week

1 The stewards at Limerick on Thursday were justified in coming down hard on Denis Hogan for his ride on Norah Starr.

Hogan is one of the best young trainers in the country and a decent rider to boot, but his tender handling of the race-fit Norah Starr en route to finishing seventh on the Flat at the Munster venue fell a long way short of the standards he has set for himself.

He ended up with a €1,000 fine, a 14-day riding holiday and the horse got a 60-day ban.

In light of the strong video evidence, there was little that Hogan could have said in mitigation that the stewards could have accepted and the punishments meted out confirm that they weren't swayed.

While a regrettable episode for Hogan, he will soon bounce back, and the hope would be that similarly no-nonsense interpretations of the rules are applied everywhere and to everyone.

Only time will tell if that is a hopelessly idealistic desire.

2Graham Lee is to turn his attentions to the Flat. Quite apart from being one of the best jumps jockeys in the business, Galway-born Lee -- known as 'Bruce' because of his diminutive size and powerful physique -- is one of the weighing room's sharpest minds, so his surprise decision is unlikely to be incidental.

Lee's agent is Richard Hale, who also looks after the two-time champion Flat jockey Paul Hanagan.

With Hanagan and last year's runner-up Silvestre de Souza both relocating to Newmarket, Hale and Lee clearly spotted a gap in the northern market.

Thanks to an array of dual purpose northern handlers that are already familiar with Lee's talents, the Grand National-winning rider is well placed to take advantage.

3 The Flat jockeys' changing room has lost two of its longest serving stalwarts.

Just days after the 43-year-old Willie Supple became the last of the four Kerry brothers to hang up his boots, Pat Shanahan (48) announced that he would not be riding anymore. Supple's plans are fluid, but Shanahan is to embark on a training career.

Racing Diary

Monday: Kelso, Redcar

Tuesday: Thurles*, Fontwell, Sedgefield, Southwell (AW)

Wednesday: Dundalk* (AW), Exeter, Hereford, Lingfield (AW), Wolverhampton* (AW)

Thursday: Clonmel*, Folkestone, Ludlow, Wincanton

Friday: No racing

Saturday: Cork, Carlisle, Haydock, Kempton (AW), Musselburgh, Newton Abbot

Sunday: Cork, Fairyhouse, Musselburgh, Plumpton, Towcester

Irish Independent