Classic hero Ted Durcan set for next chapter as he brings riding career to end
Dual Classic winner Ted Durcan, a seven-time champion jockey in the United Arab Emirates, has announced his retirement from race-riding at the age of 44.
Durcan is not retiring from racing, however, and while he will continue his close working relationship with Sir Michael Stoute he is looking to explore avenues in the bloodstock world.
Stoute, for whom Durcan rode regularly in the last few years, was among the first to pay tribute, saying: "Ted is a very important and valued member of the team here and we greatly respect his horsemanship and judgement. He has a lot of knowledge and gets on well with everyone.
"He's had a very successful riding career and it's time for him to move on. He's got a lot to offer."
Alan Cooper, racing manager to the Niarchos family, for whom Durcan won the 2007 Oaks on Light Shift, spoke in similar vein, saying: "We've had very good relations with Ted since his Warren Place days and we all enjoyed an unforgettable day at Epsom, which was a fabulous day for all sorts of reasons, particularly for Henry [Cecil] and Ted.
"He's a top man and very shrewd. He's great at assessing horses and always a pleasure to work with."
Durcan was a late starter following six years at boarding school but, like many, he enjoyed the best grounding with Jim Bolger, initially in the school holidays at a time when Christy Roche, Willie Supple, Seamus Heffernan, Paul Carberry and Sir Anthony McCoy were all there, not to mention Aidan O'Brien as stable amateur and assistant.
His first winner was for Bolger on Nordic Pageant at Fairyhouse in 1992, and his last was Face The Facts for John Gosden in a Listed race at Newmarket in September.
In between he compiled a global total of around 1,500 winners, with a best British score of 95 in 2007, and his best winter in the UAE yielding 60 winners.
Reflecting on the decision to bring his riding career to a close, Durcan said: "I've been mulling it over for a while. I'm going to be 45 at the end of the month and I've probably achieved what I'm going to achieve now as a rider. It's time to begin the next phase.
"I don't look on it as retirement. Racing has been my life and it's been very good to me. What I would like to do now is to channel my energies in other directions.
"I'm continuing with Sir Michael, who I've learned such a lot from and who is such an easy man to work with, but I'm fascinated by the bloodstock world and would love to get more involved there."
However, he will probably be best remembered as a jockey for his long association with Dubai, and with the Maktoum family and Godolphin in particular, which besides his multiple championships led to St Leger success on Mastery in 2009.
He recalled: "Michael Osborne, who was very influential in Dubai, organised a winter for me there with Paddy Rudkin in 1997, and the following year I started riding out for Saeed Bin Suroor in Newmarket.
"I was riding in the north a lot, but that association with Saeed and Godolphin lasted the best part of 20 years. I had a second winter with Paddy in Dubai and on the back of that started riding for Sheikh Rashid, Sheikh Mohammed's eldest son who has now passed away.
"Sheikh Rashid, whose horses were with Satish Seemar, made me his first rider the following winter, and that opened up huge opportunities for me in Dubai.
"I was lucky to get great opportunities and a lot of support there in the early days, and I was champion rider seven times. It was a massive part of my life and my second home. My wife Sue and I still enjoy our holidays there."
By chance, it was through riding work for Bin Suroor on Newmarket's Al Bahathri gallop that Durcan started riding for Sir Henry Cecil, as he was asked one morning to ride work for him when he had finished on the Godolphin horses.
Two years later the stars aligned perfectly once more and he won his second Classic on Mastery for Bin Suroor.
He remembers: "Mastery was a very straightforward horse and one of those for whom the ground could not be quick enough. Frankie [Dettori] was riding Kite Wood, who was favourite, but my luck was in and we had an absolute heatwave. It got quicker and quicker and we beat Kite Wood three-quarters of a length."
He added: "There are a hundred riders in the weighing room who will never ride a Classic winner, and I know I was not the most gifted, so I appreciate just how lucky I was to ride two."
Durcan enjoyed a good association with Cecil's former assistant David Lanigan once he took out a licence and the pair combined for seconds in the Oaks with Meeznah – later disqualified on a technicality – and in the Derby with Main Sequence.
He also enjoyed a special relationship throughout his time in Newmarket with Chris Wall, whom he considers "the most under-appreciated trainer in town", as well as a very good friend. A Group 3 sprint success with Royal Rock was one of many successes they enjoyed together.
Durcan was involved in the October 2016 Kempton pile-up in which Freddy Tylicki suffered life-changing injuries but insists that neither that incident, nor other injuries he has suffered, has had anything to do with his decision to retire.
He said: "I walked away from Freddy's accident and then came back in the spring and had another injury soon afterwards. That was very annoying and my last year was almost a write off, but those injuries were not a factor.
"Kempton was horrific, of course, but although I smashed my ankle I count myself lucky. I never thought of retiring then. I wanted to retire on my own terms, and I have done that now.
"I've been lucky to have ridden for the best in the business, including many I grew up admiring. That's something I'm very proud of."
SIX OF THE BEST IN HIS OWN WORDS...
Cocoa Beach (Saeed Bin Suroor)
Cocoa Beach was a very talented former South American filly owned by Princess Haya and we won both the UAE 1,000 Guineas and Oaks by wide margins. She was also third in the UAE Derby and went on to Grade 1 success for Godolphin in the States.
I had a great spell riding regularly for Mick Channon, and although I'm naming Flashy Wings, on whom I won a Queen Mary and a Lowther, I should also mention Imperial Dancer, a Group 1 winner in Italy, as well as Championship Point and Silca's Sister.
Light Shift (Sir Henry Cecil)
A really talented filly and my first Classic winner, so very, very special. The Oaks was Henry's afternoon obviously, and I was so thrilled for him. I was thrilled too for the Niarchos family, because you could not ride for better owners.
Mastery (Saeed Bin Suroor)
He'd run well at York for Frankie, but Kite Wood was Godolphin's number one at Doncaster. I got lucky because Mastery loved to hear his hooves rattle and it got quicker and quicker as the week went on. He was very straightforward and the race went perfectly. As with Light Shift, it was extra special because the people behind the horse had been so good to me.
Sahpresa (Rod Collet)
Sahpresa was a chance ride and I only sat on her once, but when we won the Sun Chariot Stakes we beat a very strong field, including the Guineas winner Ghanaati, Spacious and Strawberrydaiquiri. She won the race again twice more and was another very talented filly.
Somnus (Tim Easterby)
Somnus was a real good hard-knocking horse who as a juvenile won the sales race at Doncaster and the Redcar Two-Year-Old Trophy. I got back on him after an injury and we beat Oasis Dream in the Haydock Sprint Cup. He was a smart horse on any ground, but on soft ground he was a very serious sprinter indeed.
Full name Thomas Edward Durcan
Born County Mayo, February 25, 1973
Apprenticed to Jim Bolger, Coolcullen, County Carlow
First winner Nordic Pageant, Fairyhouse, October 3, 1992
First big-race winner Azra (1996 Silver Flash Stakes)
First winner in Britain Laurel Pleasure, Thirsk, May 17, 1997
British Classic winners Light Shift (2007 Oaks), Mastery (2009 St Leger)
Other British Group 1 winners Somnus (2003 Haydock Sprint Cup), Sahpresa (2009 Sun Chariot Stakes)
Other Group 1 winners Imperial Dancer (2003 Premio Roma), Silca's Sister (2005 Prix Morny), Dubai Surprise (2005 Premio Lydia Tesio), Cherry Mix (2006 Premio Roma)
Dubai Duty Free winner Rhythm Band (2000, Group 3)
Dual Classic winner Cocoa Beach (2008 UAE 1,000 Guineas, UAE Oaks)
Other notable winners Conflict (2000 Godolphin Mile), Somnus (2002 St Leger Yearling Stakes, Redcar 2-Y-O Trophy), Little Jim (2004 UAE 2,000 Guineas), Tamarillo (2004 UAE Oaks), Royal Millennium (2004 Renaissance Stakes), The Trader (2005 Prix du Gros-Chene), Flashy Wings (2005 Queen Mary Stakes, Lowther Stakes), Hellvelyn (2006 Coventry Stakes), Twice Over (2008 Craven Stakes, Prix Eugene Adam), Madame Trop Vite (2008 Flying Childers Stakes), Main Sequence (2012 Lingfield Derby Trial)
Derby runner-up Main Sequence (2012)
Richest prize £731,707 (Rhythm Band, 2000 Dubai Duty Free)
UAE champion jockey 7 times: 1999-2000, 2000-01, 2001-02, 2003-04, 2004-05, 2006-07, 2007-08
Most wins in a UAE season 60 (1999-2000)
Highest position in British jockeys' table 9th (2007)
Most wins in a British season 95 (2007)
Total wins in Britain 1,021
Compiled by John Randall
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