Racing: Hard labour as Maguire begins a long haul: Last season's runner-up for the jump jockeys' title is ready to ride a record 1,000 mounts in the new campaign

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IF Adrian Maguire could identify with historical figures it may be with the Chinese workmen of the third century BC who were given a pile of rubble and asked to knock up a little something to keep the Mongols out.

Like the Great Wall labourers, Maguire is embarking on a long and strenuous task this National Hunt season, during which he is expected to become the first jumps man ever to take 1,000 mounts in a campaign.

It was just eight weeks ago that the 1993-94 jumps title race ended with Maguire on 194 winners, three adrift of the champion, Richard Dunwoody. A trip to Hong Kong and a recuperative session in his homeland later, the Irishman, or rather Team Maguire, is back. These days, behind every good jockey there is a good agent, and the man booking rides for Maguire is generally recognised as the operator who has brought a new level of commitment to National Hunt racing, Dave Roberts.

Roberts started work last week and will not have a day off until the crocuses come up again. He expects the same of Maguire. 'From day one there have been no complaints and if I tell Adrian he's got three to ride at Hexham he just gets on with it,' Roberts said yesterday. 'This season, on a yearly turnover from Bangor to Bangor if you like, I'm sure Adrian will have over 1,000 rides.'

Last season it seemed as though Maguire was a loser, but there would be a lot of happy campers around if they suffered defeats such as his. For a start, Maguire earned close to pounds 80 on each of the 915 occasions he sat on a horse in Britain. Then there were foreign rides, winning percentages and further entries into his big-race scrapbook.

'Even if you forget the total, the 194, last season was a memorable one for Adrian,' Roberts added. 'He won his first King George with Barton Bank, his first Triumph Hurdle with Mysilv, his first Queen Mother Champion Chase with Viking Flagship, and he was third in the Grand National.

'He's done in one season what a lot of jockeys would love to do in their entire careers.'

Team Maguire are keen to ensure their main commodity has a long career. In the past, burn-out in racing has been the province solely of two-year-olds, but, at Goodwood last week, Pat Eddery mentioned the phenomenon could soon claim as many young Flat jockeys as tennis players if they raced around the calendar.

Maguire and Roberts have already discussed the problem. 'We are very conscious of the fact that Adrian has a very heavy workload,' the agent said. 'At the end of last season we decided he wouldn't ride for six weeks in Ireland during the close season as he has done previously. It would have been easy to carry on riding but he needs a break. We both want to make sure he's got plenty of career in front of him.'

It is sometimes difficult to remember that just three seasons ago Adrian Maguire was a conditional jockey. The campaign after becoming the top claimer with 71 victories, he rode 124 winners and then came last year's total. 'Because he rides so much and his name is seen so much, people tend to forget that he hasn't been around that long,' Roberts said. 'When you consider he's only had three seasons, what he's achieved has been remarkable.'

The edifice of his career suggests there is more to come. Not only is Maguire first jockey to David Nicholson, the champion trainer, but he also has a network of other trainers dotted all over these islands. 'Adrian has always been a regular traveller, up north for example, from the day he arrived over here,' Roberts said. 'I remember when he first came over as a conditional and drove up from Whitcombe (in Dorset) to Kelso to ride one for Gareth Charles-Jones. He arrived back in the middle of the night.'

There will be more dark endings to the day this winter for Adrian Maguire, which will probably be the busiest winter any jockey has ever undertaken. So far, 15 mounts have gone and four victories are in the bank. In Great Wall terms, he has only just started mixing the concrete.

(Photograph omitted)

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