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Thursday, 18 October, 2018

Ex-jockeys craving buzz of festival and season's routine

Robert Thornton: misses riding at the festival meetings
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What do I miss about the jumps?
Robert 'Choc' Thornton

I'm currently working in the Flat business and have come to terms with not riding again, but I miss the big festivals like Cheltenham and Aintree – although I wouldn't be too bothered about not being able to ride around Exeter on firm ground on a Tuesday evening.

The festivals were good to me. I never really had a ride good enough to feature in the King George but between the years of 2004 until 2011 I had a superb time at the festivals and I miss that buzz.

I had to retire and I don't ever want to feel like I did that day at Chepstow ever again. I was paralysed from the neck down for a period of time and it wasn't very nice. I had a year to come to terms with it before I officially retired but I still wouldn't mind a go in one of the big races or a Grand National.

I can now appreciate both codes and see jumping as a love and the Flat as a business. What jumping has best is its spectacle and the people who give it a family feel. It's a proper community.

Michael Hills: loss of routine hard to get used to

What do I miss about the Flat?
Michael Hills

At first you really miss the routine, as in the fitness, the dieting, and a life that is geared around the likes of the Craven meeting and the Guineas before a whole summer is mapped out. When you give up you suddenly have a lot of free time and it takes a good year to get out of always looking at the paper and seeing a horse you think you could have ridden.

The other thing is after you finish riding and go to the racecourse, you don't even know where the loos or the bars are as you are so used to walking straight into the weighing room to do your job. When you are out of riding it takes a bit of getting used to that people want to talk to you and that you have to look at horses and not ride them ride. When you have done a 30-year stint like I did it became a complete way of life.

I enjoy watching the jumps more now because I like the spectacle whereas before I was always thinking about the Flat and was generally away in the winter.

What annoys me about jumping is it is completely governed by the Cheltenham Festival. People are even talking about what wins next year's Gold Cup now. It's sad for jumping because it has a lot going for it. That's not the case on the Flat.

What jumping has best is its spectacle and the people who give it a family feel. It's a proper community
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