NORTH Yorkshire jump jockey Andrew Thornton believes he might have one more winner left in him as he prepares to come out of retirement to line up in the Clipper Logistics Leger Legends Stakes at Doncaster today.
The traditional curtain-raiser to the four-day St Leger festival on Town Moor, the 45-year-old is one of 16 former riders to don their racing silks for a one mile Flat race in aid of the Northern Racing College and Jack Berry House, the Injured Jockeys Fund rehab centre in Malton which helped to maintain Thornton’s injury-hit career for so long.
The event has raised £880,000 since its inception in 2010 and legendary jockey Lester Piggott will be among those present at Doncaster today in the hope that the £1m milestone can be reached.
Thornton rode over 1,000 winners, including the 1998 Cheltenham Gold Cup on Cool Dawn, in a long career in the saddle which finished in June with a success at Uttoxeter – the 1,000th of career dominated in the latter stages by his determination to reach this benchmark.
Former Grand National winner Timmy Murphy, Classic hero Ted Durcan and TV presenter Luke Harvey are among those competing against Thornton who rides Detachment, last year’s fourth, for in form Beverley trainer Les Eyre.
“Les has been a good pal of mine for a long time,” said Thornton.
“It will be a great day. I think they are hoping to take the money raised to over £1m for the and to be fair, Gibbo (Dale Gibson) puts in an awful lot of work.”
On his race preparation, Thornton added: “I’ve still got another couple of pounds to lose. I went up to about 11st 7lb and I’ve been in proper training for the past fortnight.
“I’ve been running every day, getting fit, just like I used to. People are telling me it’s only a mile, but it’s two as you’ve got to get to the start!
“I had a ride out for Seamus (Mullins) the other day and it was hanging like a gate and by the time I got off, my left calf and my left thigh were in bits.
“You use muscles that you use for nothing else and as I hadn’t been riding out, I’d forgotten how much it gets to you. I’ve had plenty of rides since and I’m pleased to say it’s like riding a bike.
“I think he should have a chance, he nearly won it last year and is 1lb lower – I just wish I wasn’t drawn as far away from Timmy (Murphy) as I am as I used to follow him knowing he’d be in the right position!”
Meanwhile Rob Hornby, one of the rising stars of the weighing room, admits he still does not know how good Maid Up is ahead of her tilt at the St Leger on Saturday.
Andrew Balding’s filly has won four of her last five races and produced a career-best performance when landing the Group Three March Stakes at Goodwood on her latest appearance.
She was supplemented for the Town Moor showpiece on Monday and will provide Hornby with his first ever Classic ride this weekend. “She’s just an incredible filly, when you see her at home you couldn’t pick her out, she just mosies along doing her own thing,” he said.
“I galloped her on Saturday as her usual rider was on holiday and she doesn’t give you a feel of what she shows you in a race.
“Even in a race for the first half of it you are thinking ‘oh God, she’s not going at all’, but as soon as you ask her and put the bridle into her mouth she’s there for you straight away.
“She’s improved so much and you don’t even know how good she is. As long as she’s got something in front of her she’ll run her heart out and chase them all the way to the line.
“She’s won at the course before. You don’t need to interfere with her for the first part of the race, as long as you don’t have to make up too much ground just hunt away and then really come home strong.”
Alpha Centauri is the star name among 16 fillies confirmed for the Matron Stakes at Leopardstown on Saturday.
Jessica Harrington’s three-year-old has arguably been the star of the season so far, winning the Irish 1,000 Guineas, the Coronation Stakes, the Falmouth Stakes and the Prix Jacques le Marois.
The daughter of Mastercraftsman will be a red-hot favourite to extend her Group One tally to five on the opening day of Irish Champions Weekend.
Aidan O’Brien has seven remaining contenders including Rhododendron, Magical, Happily and Athena.
The potential British challenge is headed by Karl Burke’s star filly Laurens with Danny Tudhope deputising for the injured PJ McDonald in the saddle. The Leyburn trainer has also left in Ellthea. Burke said: “Laurens is in great form. I couldn’t be happier with her. Laurens definitely runs, and we’ll see what happens weather-wise for Ellthea.”