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Racing: Final call as Pitman heads for the sunset

MAJIIRO WILL probably start at a very short price for the bumper at Huntingdon tonight, because as her followers know only too well, Jenny Pitman will want to end her training career with a winner. Pitman has four entries at the track, just a day before she hands over her licence to her son, Mark, and retires - assuming that she knows the meaning of the word - to become the racing manager for her principal owner.

Merry Shot, Silver Thyne and Scarlet Emperor are Pitman's other entries, although the possibility of firm going means that not all are certain to run. All four are owned by Robert Hitchins, whose string will be managed by Mrs Pitman from next season.

"We will walk the course before deciding whether they will all run or not," David Stait, Mrs Pitman's husband, said yesterday. "They will all go with their chances. Majiiro has been working well and is in good form. He ran a cracking race at Sandown and we are quite hopeful."

Whatever the outcome for her last runner, Jenny Pitman will retire from training having been one of the most significant members of her profession in the last 20 years. She was the first woman to train the winner of the Grand National, when Corbiere won the race in 1983, and won the race again with Royal Athlete 12 years later. She also saddled Esha Ness, who passed the post first in the void National of 1993.

Pitman was also the first woman trainer to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup, with Burrough Hill Lad in 1984, and followed up with Garrison Savannah, who was ridden by Mark Pitman, in 1991. She was embroiled in controversy, though, after the 1992 renewal, when her horse Golden Freeze appeared to be ridden with the sole intention of frustrating the hot favourite, Carvill's Hill.

Staying chasers were always Mrs Pitman's stock in trade. When Mudahim won the Irish Grand National last year, she became only the second trainer to complete a full set of all four Nationals, having won the Welsh version three times and the Scottish National at Ayr once.

Other notable chasers to have passed through Mrs Pitman's hands include Stearsby, Nahthen Lad and Toby Tobias, while her haul of big races included the Hennessy Gold Cup and King George VI Chase, and the Sun Alliance Novices' Chase and the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

The licence at Weathercock House in Lambourn, which Pitman built up almost from scratch, will now pass to Mark Pitman, who has been training successfully nearby for the last two seasons. The dynasty is surely in safe hands.