Monday 19 November 2018

Veteran Thornton hanging up saddle

Jockey Andrew Thornton
Jockey Andrew Thornton

Michael Verney

It was a day dominated by veterans on a variety of fronts as long-serving National Hunt jockey Andrew Thornton announced that he will retire from the saddle after racing in Uttoxeter tomorrow.

Thornton - one of the most respected pilots in the weighing-room - is part of a select crew of jockeys to have reached 1,000 jumps winners and also claimed the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Cool Dawn 20 years ago, but he admitted that time waits for no man or woman.

The 45-year-old - who rode his first winner in November 1991 - has struggled with injury in recent years and even damaged his knee when dismounting after riding his 1,000th winner, with the injury keeping him out of the saddle for several months.

"I woke up at three in the morning and I was mulling things over. I thought - 'you know what, the time's right'. I've eked it out for as long as I dare. It's the right time for me, and it's the right time for (trainer) Seamus (Mullins) to kick on without me," Thornton said yesterday.

"But I've enjoyed every minute of it and I wouldn't change anything, except I wouldn't fall off so many and wouldn't have had so many injuries. It's been a pleasure to be involved so long in a sport I love so much.

"I'm not getting as many rides as I used to and I just felt I had to grow up. Father Time is catching me up and I'd like to do it on my own terms. My wife asked me this morning if I was sure, but I absolutely am, I've no regrets.

"People talk about the end of an era, but I've probably spanned two eras. I've got four rides at Uttoxeter but even if one of them wins, I will be riding the fourth, simply because I love it."

Meanwhile, dual Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown Festival hero On The Fringe (4/1) returned to winning ways at the ripe age of 13 in the Join The Listowel Supporters Club Hunters Chase at the Kerry track yesterday.

With Áine O'Connor in the plate for the first time, Enda Bolger's loveable veteran showed that there's plenty of life in him yet to score for the first time in more than two years after hot favourite Minella For Value (4/5) was pulled up on the final circuit.

"We left the blinkers off and claimed the 7lbs and tried everything because coming down, I realistically didn't think we had a chance.

"He travelled really sweet and Áine gave him a lovely ride and got the inner the whole way around," Limerick trainer Bolger said.

"The first phone call I got coming down off the stands was from Ms (Nina) Carberry so we're all delighted. I was just so nervous coming as I wanted him to finish in one piece but we're not going to make any decision (regarding retirement) today. He has been my best horse with what he has done."

Elsewhere, the evergreen John Kiely continued his fine run of form on the card when 10-year-old Ancient Sands (33/1) caused a huge upset to claim his 12th career win.

A tilt at the Galway Hurdle may be next on the cards after he scored in good style under Brian Hayes with octogenarian Kiely - who shows no signs of slowing down - commenting that "he gave me a good feel yesterday morning riding him out!"

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