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I'm sure that we would all like to wish Robert Thornton well in his retirement. It was his riding of Shankar as a conditional jockey when I first started to take him seriously and bar one terrible misjudgement in his Racing Post column a few years when having a pop at two highly respected broadcasters, I have nothing but praise for him. In the saddle he made few mistakes especially at Cheltenham where, apart from Ruby Walsh, I think he rode the course better than anyone. All in all he posted 16 victories at the Festival with highlights being Katchit in the Champion Hurdle, Voy Por Ustedes in the Queen Mother and My Way De Solzen in the World Hurdle where he outrode Johnny Murtagh on the runner-up, Golden Cross. My favourite Thornton moment though from a punting perspective was when he fended off Monet's Garden on Voy Por Ustedes to win the Arkle.
My one face-to-face moment with 'Choc' though (and no I didn't call him that - I can't believe I've even put Choc in print) was before racing at Towcester when he was riding and I was the Master of Ceremonies during a game of cricket behind the weighing room on rock hard ground. He was bowling and I prodded the ball away to mid-off (this was the hit and you must run style of the game) and set off like a scalded cat attempting not to get run out only to do my left hamstring in one stride and then the right hamstring in the very next stride. Whilst I lay on the ground in agony, howls of laughter came from the bowler's end and field as I literally could not get up. In the end, the medical staff had to carry me to the first aid room reserved for jockeys and sat me on blocks of ice. I managed to hobble to the winners' enclosure to fulfull my duties but was laid up for three weeks afterwards.