Racing: Spencer plans to restart career in Britain

The curious tale of the disappearing Ballydoyle stable jockey produced another intriguing chapter yesterday.

On his first mounts since relinquishing perhaps the most high-profile riding post in world racing, Jamie Spencer outlined the great job he had made last season of riding the horses trained by Aidan O'Brien.

This followed comments from John Magnier, who is considered a godfather by many but actually holds that guardian function with Spencer. The head of the Ballydoyle/Coolmore axis said he was "disappointed" to have lost his young ward.

With so many happy campers around, it seemed almost churlish to point out that Spencer had either felt too pressured to continue or had resigned as an alternative to being sacked.

Whatever the reality, Spencer's tenure of just one season represents a failure for both himself and the team which appointed him in the first place.

The succession is no less intriguing. The initial suggestion was that Johnny Murtagh, who has enjoyed no little success on the Ballydoyle horses, notably on the Classic winners Rock Of Gibraltar and High Chaparral, was the raging favourite.

Then came a huge run on the betting exchange Betfair on Darryll Holland. Punters may have latched on to Holland's absence of denial that he had been approached, as well as his decision to cut short his contract in Hong Kong. Two and two put together made 1-3 on Betfair. It seemed Holland's tack was already on its way over the Irish Sea. Almost as soon, however, came a thaw and, by last night, Murtagh was again favourite.

Spencer was bountiful in his praise of Ballydoyle's principal owners, Magnier and Michael Tabor, but less fulsome about O'Brien, who is known to have banged heads with Spencer's predecessor, Michael Kinane. The latest departing jockey, at the age of 24, has plenty of time to rebuild a career, which is, temporarily at least, lying in smouldering debris.

There was not much meat yesterday to add to the skeleton of Spencer's announcement, and the most positive information was that his reconstruction will take place in Britain rather than his native Ireland.

"I had been thinking about it for a while and in the end it was personal and professional things," Spencer said. "Peace of mind is a lot in life, no matter how much money you have. I rode well last season, but every jockey will say they can ride better, even if they won every race.

"I have known Mr Magnier since I was 10, and still am friends with his sons. Sometimes he is portrayed as a tough man, but I have never seen any side but the nice side of him. There was never any pressure from him, and it was the same with Mr Tabor. I look forward to riding for them in the future.

"I have had a great response from the trainers I have ridden for before, like David Loder and Luca Cumani, who said they would give me rides. I am young and I never tired of going up and down the motorway because I was fortunate enough to ride lots of horses every day, and it was enjoyable. I think I've come out a tougher person. I've learned more about life, and that there is more to life than horses."

* Timmy Murphy is to miss the Racing Post Chase meeting at Kempton this month after picking up a seven-day ban at Ludlow yesterday for his riding of Oasis Banus. The stewards decided Murphy had failed to take all steps to ensure his horse obtained the best possible placing.

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