Racing legend Andrew Thornton retired at Uttoxeter’s midweek meeting last Wednesday, bidding farewell on one of his favourite tracks.
“It’s nice to be retiring at Uttoxeter,” reflected the 45-year-old who has spent 28 seasons in the saddle. “It’s been one of the most improved tracks since I started riding. The improvements over the last 25 years have been tremendous.”
Thornton amassed an astonishing 1,007 wins from 9,830 rides in his career, including the 1998 Cheltenham Gold Cup and 2012 Irish Grand National.
Donning the silks for the first time in 1991, he would go on to form a strong relationship with Uttoxeter, both on and off the horse. He has worked behind the scenes staging tipster sessions and hosting events, and will make a quick return next week when, on Thursday June 14, he will be the Ladies Night raceday presenter.
As part of the Uttoxeter celebrations, the racecourse named the initial 2.10 encounter ‘The Andrew Thornton Congratulations On Your Retirement Handicap Hurdle’ in tribute to the jockey. Thornton didn’t pass the post first, but did record a popular 10-length win in the second race of the day, the Abacus Decorators “National Hunt” Maiden Hurdle, on Amirr for trainer Seamus Mullins.
In the winner’s enclosure, to mark a remarkable 1,007th winner, and to rapturous applause, he was sprayed with champagne, not to mention a bucket of water from a fellow jockey!
In his final career race, Thornton was agonisingly close to a win aboard Manhattan Spring, passed by Lively Article on the run-in. But he was far from deflated.
"Who will remember that I got beat on the last one in 20 years time? Probably nobody. I've had a winner for the day and that has put the icing on the cake.
"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.
"It couldn't have worked out any better. It's a special day.”
Executive Director of Uttoxeter Racecourse, David MacDonald, paid tribute to Thornton, who also works as a pundit on BBC Radio Five Live.
“I have made no secret of the fact that he is one of my favourite jockeys,” said Mr MacDonald. “Uttoxeter has had a special relationship with Andrew for a number of years. He has been such a pleasure to work with as he is just a lovely humble man.”