On the day when Seb Sanders was fighting desperately to keep his title hopes alive, the jockey whose example can most inspire him announced his retirement.
Kevin Darley was 40 when he became champion jockey for the one and only time in 2000. Riding largely on the northern circuit, Darley has long been cherished for reliability and professionalism rather than flair. As such, he provides a heartening model for Sanders, who at 36 will surely never have a better chance of winning the title.
Yesterday Sanders drew a blank from four rides at Nottingham before setting off for Kempton's evening meeting. After three races there he had ridden one winner.
At that stage he was one behind Jamie Spencer in their gruelling duel, which reaches a climax at Doncaster on Saturday. Spen-cer was meanwhile serving a second day of a ban, but returns at Musselburgh this afternoon before crossing swords with Sanders at Wolverhampton tonight. Perhaps their most critical encounter, however, takes place at dawn.
A meeting of the British Horseracing Authority disciplinary panel will consider an appeal against the decision of the Newmarket stewards last Friday to reverse the placings after Sanders beat Spencer in a photo-finish. The panel sits at 7am to allow Spencer time to fly to Scotland.
As for Darley, he will quit on the same day that the title is resolved. Champion apprentice in 1978, Darley won won many top races, including Classics on Attraction, Celtic Swing and Bollin Eric. With characteristic dignity, he said that he did not want to carry on to a point where he was just making up the numbers. "I think I'm still riding as well as ever, and that is why I want to go out at a level I'm happy with," he said. "I'm not 22 any more, I'm 47, so I've decided to call it a day."
Perhaps his finest moment was forcing a dead-heat in the 1997 Nunthorpe Stakes after the bridle broke on Coastal Bluff.
* Sir Tristram Ricketts, one of racing's most admired administrators, died yesterday, aged 61. Sir Tristram had two spells as chief executive of the Horserace Betting Levy Board.