With a career in the saddle spanning just under three decades, Andrew Thornton’s longevity in the racing game is admirable as the 45-year-old jockey bowed out at Uttoxeter today (Wednesday, 6 June).
Here are some facts about the popular jockey that may surprise you…
1. A 3am wake-up call
The County Durham-born rider made the decision to call time on his race-riding career at three in the morning when he was “mulling things over”.
He then set his sights on the meeting at Uttoxeter today (Wednesday, 6 June) to bow out with four rides — three for trainer Seamus Mullins and one for Caroline Bailey.
He even had a race named after him today, the 2.10pm Andrew Thornton Congratulations On Your Retirement Handicap Hurdle.
His wife Yvonne and four-year-old son Harry, along with many of his weighing room friends, were there to see him out in style and it was a perfect finale, with Andrew riding a winner aboard the Seamus Mullins-trained Amirr.
2. More than 1,000 winners in the saddle
Andrew is in an exclusive group of jump jockeys who have hit — and exceeded — the 1,000-winner barrier. He has steered horses to a total of 1,007 victories over a 28-year period — an impressive feat.
3. He has a nickname
He earned himself the nickname “Lensio” from his weighing room colleagues after becoming one of the first professional jockeys to wear contact lenses while riding in races.
4. He LOVES Wincanton…
The Somerset racecourse is a lucky venue for Andrew and his most successful one. He has ridden a total of 64 winners at Wincanton and it was where he rode his 1,000th winner on Kentford Myth on Boxing Day in 2016.
5. Longevity to be admired
It may not be unusual for a Flat jockey to continue to race-ride over a lengthy period, however, the career of a jump jockey is typically much shorter — due to injury and the physical demands of jump racing.
Although Andrew faced his fair share of injuries over the years, he maintained his jockey career over 28 years and well into his 40s, which is not often seen.
6. A ‘unique’ style
Standing at 5ft11, Andrew is much taller than the average jump jockey and he rides with longer stirrups than his weighing room colleagues.
This way of riding may not have always been considered the most aesthetically pleasing by some, however, there is no doubt Andrew was one of the strongest riders in a finish and was known to “get the job done”.
7. The races he won’t forget
The former teenage Durham County rugby player has racked up an almighty 9,811 rides over his career, including three Cheltenham Festival wins — one of which was riding Cool Dawn to Gold Cup glory in 1998.
He also won the 1997 King George VI Chase aboard See More Business and he steered French Holly to three Grade One victories before the horse tragically died while schooling — which devastated Andrew and took him “about nine months to get over”.
8. A good rapport with trainers
The former champion amateur jockey started his riding career with the late Arthur Stephenson in the north-east.
He went on to ride 209 winners for Robert Alner, for whom he was stable jockey, and he won the Welsh National for the trainer in 2007 on Miko De Beauchene.
Both Seamus Mullins and Caroline Bailey — who provided Andrew with his final few rides today — have also been long-term supporters of his.
He also rode for the likes of Paul Nicholls, the late Mary Reveley, Evan Williams, Ian Williams and Ferdy Murphy.
‘Denman, thank you for all the memories. You were pure gold’
The countdown is on for Royal Ascot 2018 (19-23 June) — five days of glamour, high drama and top class
9. A life after racing
Andrew has been working towards a second career in media for a while now, including appearances on ITV Racing. He has also contributed to racing channel At The Races, plus radio work on 5Live and William Hill.