Racing: Neck injury forces Dunwoody to retire

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RICHARD DUNWOODY, domestic jump racing's winningmost jockey, has announced his retirement. The legacy of a neck injury incurred 19 months ago has meant that the 35-year-old Ulsterman, one of the modern icons of his sport, has had to bow to medical advice and call a halt to a career that yielded 1,699 winners in Britain.

Dunwoody's haul included the sport's three flagship races, the Grand National (two, on West Tip in 1986 and Miinnehoma in 1994), the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Charter Party in 1988 and the Champion Hurdle on Kribensis in 1990. He also partnered Desert Orchid to victory in consecutive King George VI Chases (1989-90) and the 1990 Irish Grand National.

In one of the few professions in which the participants are routinely followed round by an ambulance, Dunwoody has kept remarkably clear of serious injury. But for the past year he has been plagued in particular by restricted use of his right arm, the result of injury to high vertebrae, though typically he did not admit defeat until medical experts warned him of the serious consequences of another fall. "A neck injury has led to loss of strength in my right arm," he said. "This first became apparent in a fall in May 1998, and although it recovered, it was again weakened in a fall at Edinburgh in January this year. This was compounded by further falls during the summer, the last being at Perth in August.

"I have since received advice from some of the top neurosurgeons, orthopaedics and physios in England, America and Ireland. They are unanimous that any further falls could cause more serious harm as there is also a lesion in the spinal cord. "It is sad. I leave behind some great memories and certainly not from just the big days. I'm going to miss the weighing room very much."

When Dunwoody, who rode his first winner on Game Trust at Cheltenham on 4May, 1983, passed Peter Scudamore's previous record of 1,678 winners on 5 April this year at Wincanton he also notched his 10th successive seasonal century. He was awarded the MBE in 1993 and now plans to develop a career in sports media and promotion.

Falls and horses, page 24