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Fran Berry forced to retire on medical grounds after Wolverhampton horror fall

Fran Berry: suffered spinal injuries in a fall at Wolverhampton in January
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Group 1-winning jockey Fran Berry has been forced to retire from the saddle on medical advice after sustaining serious injuries in a fall at Wolverhampton in January.

Berry, 38, has brought a successful career spanning 23 years to an end following consultation with his surgeon over the spinal injuries suffered when his mount Bamako Du Chatelet came down in a 1m6f handicap.

The County Kildare-born rider, who moved to Britain in 2016, had been working towards a comeback but was given the news he was fearing at a meeting with specialists.

"It's a shame things have finished the way they have but my rehabilitation hasn't been progressing how we'd have liked and having had discussions with my surgeon Dr Mike Foy as well as Dr Jerry Hill, the decision was made for me," said Berry.

"To hear it said to you was very emotional and it's not really sunk in yet but I knew I was in trouble with my neck in particular as my movement is quite restricted."

Berry fractured six vertebrae in his spine and broke four ribs in the fall, and reflects on the career-ending incident with perspective.

He said: "Riding has been a big part of my life – I rode my first winner aged 15 – and it's gutting to have to stop but things could have been a lot worse with the accident at Wolverhampton."

Berry is the son of multiple Irish champion jump jockey Frank and rode the first of more than 1,300 career winners when he was still at school, on Loughmogue for his father on the Flat at Navan in 1996.

He then rode over jumps and gained a Cheltenham Festival success in the 1999 Coral Cup on the JP McManus-owned Khayrawani and also won the Grade 1 Ladbroke Hurdle at Leopardstown in 2000 on Mantles Prince.

Despite being quite tall for a jockey, he later switched back to concentrate on the Flat and was employed as second jockey to Mick Kinane at John Oxx's stable before taking over as the number one in 2010.

He enjoyed his finest hour the same year when riding champion two-year-old Pathfork to victory in the Group 1 National Stakes for Jessica Harrington.

A link-up with Ralph Beckett signalled a move to Britain in 2016 but the pair parted ways a year later and Berry had subsequently been riding as a freelance.

Berry, who twice won the Silver Saddle award at the Shergar Cup, had been flying high in 2018 with victory in the Chester Cup on Magic Circle and big-race success in Britain and abroad with popular grey Thundering Blue.

"I've done three years in Britain and last year was a very good one. I was set up with contacts and really looking forward to it," he said.

"However, I feel very blessed to have had the career I've had, winning races at Royal Ascot, Cheltenham and Tokyo and wherever else in between. It's been a great adventure to compete at the highest level at the best tracks in the world."

Berry will not be lost to racing as he is set to join the team on Racing TV as part of a career in the media. 


Fran Berry CV

Full name Francis Martin Berry

Born January 2, 1981

Father Frank Berry (10-time champion jump jockey in Ireland; racing manager to JP McManus)

First winner Loughmogue (trainer Frank Berry) on Flat, Navan, May 6, 1996

First two winners over jumps Total Success & Make A Move, Fairyhouse, January 1, 1998

First winner in Britain & first big-race winner Khayrawani, Oddbins Handicap Hurdle, Aintree, April 3, 1998

Group 1 winner Pathfork (2010 National Stakes)

Cheltenham Festival winner Khayrawani (1999 Coral Cup)

Ladbroke Hurdle winner (Leopardstown) Mantles Prince (2000)

Grade 2 winner in Japan (richest prize) Danon Ballade (2013 American Jockey Club Cup, Nakayama)

Group 2 winners Curtain Call (2007 Beresford Stakes), Duff (2009 Park Stakes, Doncaster), Laughing Lashes (2010 Debutante Stakes), Pathfork (2010 Futurity Stakes), Dragon Pulse (2011 Futurity Stakes), Kool Kompany (2014 Railway Stakes), Thundering Blue (2018 York Stakes)

Royal Ascot winners Leg Spinner (2005 Ascot Stakes, York), Well Sharp (2013 Ascot Stakes), Domination (2014 Ascot Stakes), Kinema (2016 Duke of Edinburgh Handicap)

Other notable winners Total Success (1998 Bisquit Cognac Hurdle), Jumbajukiba (4 Group 3 races), Magic Circle (2018 Chester Cup, Henry II Stakes), Thundering Blue (2018 Stockholm Cup International)

Last winner Nefarious, Wolverhampton, January 19, 2019

Last mount Bamako Du Chatelet (fell) Wolverhampton, January 29, 2019

Runner-up in Irish jockeys' championship 2004, 2005, 2008, 2010

Most wins in an Irish season 88 in 2010

Most wins in a British season 74 in 2018

Total wins in Ireland 1,057 (1,020 Flat, 37 jumps)

Total wins in Britain 204 (200 Flat, 4 jumps)


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It's a shame things have finished the way they have but my rehabilitation hasn't been progressing how we'd have liked
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