At the age of 21, great glories should lie ahead for Keith Dalgleish, one of the leading jockeys of the new wave and a talent apparently destined for racing's peak. Yet, this morning, Dalgleish's career, and perhaps his life, is in rubble.
The young man will not ride on the Flat again, a victim of a curse which affects so many in his calling, one which has hurt the very top men such as Frankie Dettori and Johnny Murtagh. Dalgleish has lost what is known in his sport as 'a battle with the scales'. More plainly it is a battle with himself.
Dalgleish has been betrayed by the same body which has propelled him to athletic success. His physique - he stands at over 6ft tall - has, since he started, appeared distinctly unsuited to his trade. The Scot has always been squatter camp-thin and possessed of a billiard hall complexion. The rigours must have been enormous just to keep him at work. But now he can stand the privations no longer. The racecard for Saturday evening at Hamilton now becomes something of a collectors' item. It is the last time the name of K Dalgleish will appear on a Flat programme. The jockey failed to take up his four rides at the Lanarkshire course and an announcement about Dalgleish's career was swiftly confirmed yesterday morning. "He has retired," Richard Hale, the jockey's agent, said.
"I only took him over a week ago and I took a phone call yesterday morning from his dad saying that Keith had packed in and was finished. He didn't say much more than that and didn't shed a lot of light on it, but he obviously has weight problems, and he said Keith would ring me in a day or two when he has got his head together.
"He is only 21, though, and it is not like retiring when you are 35. But he is over six foot tall, so it is an uphill struggle and it has presumably got the better of him. I can only read between the lines as he's only been with me a week, but he certainly never mentioned anything like this and it has come as a shock to me as well.
"He never carries any weight and is at a bare minimum, so is fighting the scales all of the time, and there will be no day when he went racing without wasting. Most people can have a few days off but if he let it go, he could probably put half a stone on quite easily."
Dalgleish's talent was enough to have earned him employment at Mark Johnston's Middleham yard. Indeed, his greatest success in the saddle came on Kingsley House's Yavana's Pace, whom he partnered to Group One success in Germany in August of 2002. He rode many of Johnston's luminaries, including Lucky Story, a winner at Glorious Goodwood last year.
There have been 22 winners this season but no more. If Keith Dalgleish is ever to feel the emotional rush of sharing in a horserace victory again it now seems it will have to come in another sphere of the turf. "A few people have been asking if he will go jumping and I am not saying that won't happen," Hale added, "but I just don't know at this stage."
* Kieren Fallon's legal team believe the disrepute charges facing the champion jockey are flawed. Fallon's solicitor, Christopher Stewart-Moore, has said that the jockey's comments to the News of the World "undermine the whole case" after hearing the tapes made by the newspaper. The Jockey Club's public relations director, John Maxse, commented: "A date has yet to be set for the hearing but we are looking at the back end of September."Reuse content