GBI RACING

Classic-winning rider Jimmy Fortune announces retirement from the saddle

Jimmy Fortune on Nathra after the Kingdom Of Bahrain Sun Chariot Stakes at Newmarket

Classic-winning jockey Jimmy Fortune is looking to the future after announcing his retirement from the saddle following a career spanning almost 30 years.

As well as winning the St Leger at Doncaster on Lucarno for trainer John Gosden in 2007, Fortune won a host of other big races, including the 2008 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on Raven's Pass and the Yorkshire Oaks on Dar Re Mi in 2009.

A back problem that surfaced in May and kept him off the track until August ultimately forced him to consider calling time on his riding days.

Fortune, 45, said: "I just felt I couldn't go flat at it with the injury I had. If you can't give it everything you lose the support of the people around you. I was more or less forced to call it a day.

"Even though you feel you should do it, it is still not an easy decision to make. It has been my life. It is never easy, but it comes to us all. It is a hard place to leave and if things had been right I would have had another five years.

"It is not a decision I made lightly, but I am glad I did as I have a few irons in the fire. I've got the rest of my life to look forward to and hopefully my back will improve a bit.

"I am conscious of the fact I've two boys to look after. They are 17 and 18, but they are still kids and hopefully I'm going to build up a business that I can pass on to them. I've had all that in mind over the last year."

Fortune was speaking at Newmarket, where he bowed out on the Gosden-trained Nathra in the Kingdom of Bahrain Sun Chariot Stakes, finishing a fine third in a race he won on Lady In Waiting in 1999.

He went on: "My last ride before this was in a Class Six at Kempton on Wednesday and I wasn't going to call it a day on that. When John gave me the ride on this filly. I said to my agent that I am highly unlikely to get another ride in a Group One, so let's do it today.

"It was lovely to do it on one of John's as he has been very supportive over the years. He is a great man and we all know what a great trainer he is."

Born in Wexford, Fortune was apprenticed with Jim Bolger in Ireland. He was first licensed in 1987 and moved to the UK, where his first win came at Thirsk in 1988, riding Hitchinstown.

The following year he burst on to the scene with victory aboard 50-1 shot Joveworth as a 5lb claiming apprentice for trainer Mike O'Neill in the Ayr Gold Cup.

He went on to partner such stars as Oasis Dream in the 2002 Middle Park Stakes and Nannina in both the 2008 Fillies' Mile and the 2009 Coronation Stakes.

Fortune also enjoyed great success internationally, particularly in India where he spent many a lucrative winter.

He said: "There are many great highlights. My first Classic in the St Leger on Lucarno in 2007 was probably my best year. That was the year I was the leading rider at Royal Ascot.

"I suppose the QEII and the Fillies' Mile were very special on Raven's Pass and Rainbow View, there has been many special days along the way and there is Nannina winning the Coronation.

"I've probably forgot half of them as they are that long ago. There have been lots of special days and I can only be grateful for the owners and trainers that have used me over the years.

"I've had some wonderful winters in India. I won two of the main Indian Derbys and won plenty of others.

"I'm very lucky I'm getting out in one piece. I'm very grateful to everyone that's helped along the way."

Gosden paid his tribute, saying: "He's a superb horseman and we had some wonderful days at Manton together.

"He's been leading rider at Ascot, had Classic winners, Group One winners and on a wet Monday afternoon he'd give it his best in a 0-70 handicap. One thing about Jimmy, he is a wonderfully strong, genuine, honest man."

As well as Gosden, one of the many trainers Fortune was associated with was Andrew Balding, for whom he rode many winners including Tullius in the Group Three Diomed Stakes at Epsom last year.

The Kingsclere trainer said: "Jimmy has been a fabulous jockey for a very long time. When I served my apprenticeships with the Ramsdens (Lynda and Jack) he was stable jockey.

"He was very strong, a very straightforward person to deal with and we'll miss him.

"All things have to come to an end. He's had a great career and I hope he has a very happy retirement."

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