Andrew Thornton: Jump jockey wins at final race meeting before retirement

Andrew Thornton
Andrew Thornton, who won the 1998 Cheltenham Gold Cup on Cool Dawn, celebrated with his family after his winning ride on Amirr

Former Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Andrew Thornton enjoyed the perfect send-off to his riding career with a victory at Uttoxeter on Wednesday.

The 45-year-old, who is retiring after 28 years, claimed his 1,007th win aboard even-money favourite Amirr in the 'National Hunt' Maiden Hurdle.

The Seamus Mullins-trained Amirr won by 10 lengths, before Thornton finished second in the last of his four rides.

"It couldn't have worked out any better," he said. "It's a special day."

Thornton - who has also rode winners in the Welsh National, King George VI Chase and Hennessy Gold Cup - was given a rapturous welcome by spectators and fellow jockeys on his return to the winner's enclosure.

Thornton was sixth aboard Edward Elgar before finishing eighth with Westerberry on his penultimate ride. He was then agonisingly denied victory in his final career race aboard Manhattan Spring after being passed by Lively Article on the run-in.

"Who will remember that I got beat on the last one in 20 years' time? Probably nobody," Thornton added. "I've had a winner for the day and that has put the icing on the cake. It has been hard work riding four on the bounce.

"I was running on empty coming to the last on Manhattan Spring and I could just feel something on my outside and there was nothing left at the last.

"It's not sunk in yet, but I've enjoyed every minute of today. I'm lucky I've gone until 45, how many can say that? It has just been enjoyable and you can't turn the clock back.

"After I rode the first one I was thinking 'I'm pleased I'm giving up, as that was hard work'.

"It was great fun and good to see everybody here and get out in one piece."

Thornton only announced on Monday that he would retire following his rides at Uttoxeter, saying: "I have no regrets. I've got a lot to look back on."

Thornton, who is also a BBC Radio 5 live pundit, has 69 victories at Wincanton, his most successful track.

He sustained a knee injury in 2016 but has now won seven races since returning in October 2017.


Cornelius Lysaght, horse racing correspondent

Longevity by any athlete is to be admired, and when Thornton started out in November 1990, Mrs Thatcher was in the process of being toppled, Radio 5 live was only three months old and Peter Scudamore was champion jockey. No-one had heard of AP McCoy.

Thornton's success is well documented - his Gold Cup near-misses on Sir Rembrandt shouldn't be forgotten - and it has been achieved with a riding style which is not necessarily classic but is highly effective.

He's also been among the most colourful jockey characters of his era, not least because he was one of the first professionals to wear contact lenses in races, earning the nickname 'Lensio'.

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