UTTOXETER racecourse was paid a big compliment by one of the country’s most successful jump jockeys yesterday, when Andrew Thornton chose the East Staffordshire venue to mark his retirement from the saddle.
Fittingly, he was able to end his career spanning 27 years with a winning ride, when Amir skipped clear in the third race on the card, a 2m maiden hurdle.
The victory took Thornton’s impressive number of winners, since his first outing at the start of the 1990’s, to a hugely impressive 1,007 from approaching 10,000 rides.
It was Thornton’s 107th success for Wiltshire trainer Seamus Mullins who has supplied him with more than 1,000 mounts during his lengthy career.
“If you’d sat down for a year, you couldn’t have planned it any better,” said County Durham-born Thornton, who was surrounded by his fellow jockeys eager to congratulate him as he stepped down from Amir the winner’s enclosure.
The one regret for Thornton was failing to win the race named in his honour – the Andrew Thornton Congratulations On Your Retirement Handicap Hurdle.
Thornton said: “The main thing for me is that all the lads are here. My wife Yvonne and son Harry are here, my parents are here and Dave Roberts [agent] is here.”
Throughout his career Thornton, whose family home is in North Yorkshire, won a collection of big races including the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1998 on the legendary Cool Dawn.
Thornton’s very first win was on the Arthur Stephenson-trained Wrekin Hill, at Sedgefield, in November 1991, and his 1,000th win came on the Seamus Mullins-trained Kentford Myth on Boxing Day 2016.
Uttoxeter was a suitable place for Thornton to end his career, as the course has been a happy hunting ground for him.
“I had my second chase winner here on Wrekin Hill, who was my first ever winner at Sedgefield,” said Thornton.
“I did my lightest ever weight on him that day, 9st 12lb, and I think I best Anthea Farrell into second,” he added.
Only a handful of current UK-based jump jockeys have ridden more winners than Thornton, namely Richard Johnson, Noel Fehily, Tom Scudamore and Paddy Brennan.
Thornton said he will miss the daily banter in the weighing room, but he is excited by his new challenge as a racing pundit.
“I’m in a lucky position where I’ll still be in the sport. I just love racing, he said.
Racing returns to Uttoxeter tomorrow (Thursday) with the popular annual Ladies Night.. DJ Melanie C (aka Sporty Spice) will be providing after-race entertainment.