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Monday 26 September 2016

Sad day but decision not hard: Jason

Jason Maguire has been forced to retire as a jockey Pic: Edward Whitaker
Jason Maguire has been forced to retire as a jockey Pic: Edward Whitaker

Jason Maguire admitted he has been preparing for retirement for some time after officially bringing down the curtain on his riding career yesterday.

Grand National-winning jockey Maguire, 36, had not ridden competitively since February 2015, after a fall at Musselburgh.

Prior to that he suffered life-threatening injuries on the eve of the 2014 Cheltenham Festival at Stratford.

The Irishman underwent surgery in April 2015 for slipped discs in his back and while he has been riding out for the likes of Kim Bailey and Tom George, he was often left with pain in his leg.

Having been first-choice jockey for prominent owners Paul and Clare Rooney, during his time off he had acted as their racing manager and will continue that role full-time.

"It wasn't a hard decision. I suppose it's good in a way the decision was made for me," Maguire said.

"I've had three operations already on my back and to be honest it's probably getting worse. I remember schooling at Jackdaws (Jonjo O'Neill's) a couple of months ago and telling AP (Anthony McCoy) that I couldn't feel anything in my right leg.

"I had a nasty fall at Stratford two years ago and they took away a lot of the core muscle in my stomach and I think that might have made my back a little weaker, from there I had slipped discs.

"People are probably tired of seeing if I was going to come back, but I had to give it every chance, physically and mentally.

"A lot of jocks who had to retire early will tell you how hard it is when the decision is made for you. I still find it hard not riding.

Opportunity

"It's a sad day, but I've a great opportunity managing the Rooney horses."

Maguire finished second to McCoy in the 2012-13 title race and feels a hint of regret that he will never again get the chance to go one better.

He told At The Races: "Finishing second to AP was a highlight, that was a great year. Just after that you think you might be champion one day, but it's not to be.

"I had a great partnership with Donald McCain and won a Grand National with him on Ballabriggs.

"I've been very lucky to ride good horses, you can't do it without them.

"For the last three months I've been trying to come to terms with it. I went to see a specialist in London a couple of weeks ago and that was the final nail in the coffin.

"It's dangerous enough without doing it when you are not 100 per cent.

"Doing this job now I still qet a buzz out of winner, so I feel very lucky."

McCoy paid tribute to Maguire, labelling him as one of the toughest competitors in the weighing room.

The 20-times champion said: "It's something he's been suffering with for some time, pretty much since the Stratford fall.

"I know that was not his back, but it deteriorated from there.

"For the last six months he was riding in unbelievable pain, he was having to travel to the races lying down in the back of cars it was hurting so much.

"People don't realise a lot of the times what the lads are going through just to get to the races."

McCoy went on: "He was an unbelievably tough competitor and, if anything, he was getting better with age.

"I always judged myself by numbers and his numbers were on the up, he was at a point in his life where statistics showed he was getting better.

"It must be tough being forced to retire, I was able to make the decision myself, but he will be a huge asset to Paul and Clare Rooney now because he has a great knowledge of the game."

Maguire won the 2011 Grand National on Ballabriggs and enjoyed Cheltenham successes on Galileo (2002), Whiteoak (2008), Peddlers Cross (2010), Cinders And Ashes (2012) and Son Of Flicka (2012).

Maguire began his career in England with Tom George, who supplied him with his first Festival winner in Galileo.

Success

"We go back a long way and had a lot of success," said George.

"We had a bit of a parting but the last few years we teamed up again and I'd say he's ridden over 100 winners for me.

"He came to me from Ireland, I told someone I needed a claimer who was a good jockey and Jason arrived on my doorstep. I only had about 12 horses at the time.

"I bought him his first car for £300. He got his money's worth out of it but it broke down one day on the way home from Bangor and I never saw it again!

"You could never fault his riding, he was very strong.

"I actually haven't had a conditional since him because I always compared them to him and they weren't a quarter as good as he was, so I just never bothered.

"The most important thing is he is getting out in nearly one piece.

"He's got a nice set-up where he is, just down the road from me and I'm sure I'll see a lot of him."

Kim Bailey is another trainer to have used the services of Maguire regularly and he, too, was fulsome in his praise.

Bailey said: "He's one of the best jockeys I've come across. He's been unlucky not to be champion, to be honest.

"He's simply been a fantastic jockey and he'll be hugely missed.

"Around the yard he's a huge help and he will continue to be, so I'm sure as we'll still see him in his role as the Rooneys' manager.

"I think a lot of him and racing as a whole will miss him.

"He's a great reader of races, his timing was spot on and he was just a great all-round rider."

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