Racing: Former champion Mercer ends racing role

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One of the most venerable careers of the modern Turf will come to end when Joe Mercer retires from his post as racing manager to Gainsborough Stud at the end of March. Mercer, 71, the champion Flat jockey of 1979, yesterday disclosed he would be stepping down after 19 years in favour of his assistant, Bruce Raymond, for the new Flat turf season.

"I have had a most wonderful time in racing, first as a jockey and then doing this," he said. "The sport has given me some fantastic memories, but it has also taken up 57 years of my life, and the time has come for me to enjoy my grandchildren."

The Gainsborough bloodstock empire was built up by Sheikh Maktoum al-Maktoum, who died three weeks ago. The intention is for Gainsborough to remain a separate entity for now, though responsibility for its future is presumed to rest with Sheikh Mohammed, who has succeeded his brother as ruler of Dubai.

Raymond has been working with Mercer for 10 years. "I had a long and happy association with the late Sheikh Maktoum," he said. "First as a jockey and then, at Joe's suggestion, as assistant racing manager. He will of course be very sadly missed, but with the continuing help of the great teams already in place in Newbury, Ireland and the US, I feel I can help keep the name of Gainsborough to the fore."