In formally confirming yesterday that his riding career had come to an end, Mick Fitzgerald spoke with a "lump in his throat" – but it was all the other swellings, protuberances and ruptures of the past two decades that had settled the matter.
At 38, it would have been foolhardy even by jump jockey standards for Fitzgerald to persevere after suffering a serious fall in the Grand National in April. Surgeons had to realign three vertebrae and two discs, and have advised Fitzgerald, who had broken bones in his neck two years before, not to resume race-riding.
"I have had to take the advice of the experts," he said. "I've had a great career in racing, am still heavily involved, and that will continue. It's the news I didn't want. But these people know best."
The loquacious Irishman will doubtless develop his media commitments, but will be missed as a presiding influence in a golden age of riding over jumps.
His partnership with Nicky Henderson yielded 762 winners and was one of the most abiding in the sport. "He wasn't just a jockey, he was a team player and a great mate," Henderson said. "His input was enormous. Obviously he was a very, very good rider, but there was much more to it than that.
"He was always fully behind this operation and would like to stay on in some capacity. At the moment he can't ride, but he could always be here as a guide and helper and brain."Reuse content