Robert Winston retires after career of brilliant highs and significant lows
Jockey Robert Winston has retired with immediate effect, bringing to a close a career which touched brilliant heights with Group 1 glory and a champion apprentice title, but also encompassed the lows of serious injury and a corruption ban.
Winston, 39, said on Wednesday that the time was right to bring an end to his 23-year career, with injury and the constant battle to keep his weight in check proving too much as the quality of horses he was riding dropped.
He said: “I’ve retired as from today. It’s just one of those situations and the amalgamation of a few things. Keeping the weight down is a major issue when you’re not riding enough good horses day in, day out.
“I appreciate the chances I got and the winners I’ve ridden – I’ve had a fruitful career really. My weight recently has been something I’ve lost heart with.”
Winston was crowned champion apprentice in 1999 and won his first Group 1 on 40-1 shot Magical Romance in the 2004 Cheveley Park Stakes for trainer Brian Meehan.
The following season he was leading the Flat jockeys’ championship, having already won the Lincoln on Stream Of Gold and the Norfolk Stakes on Masta Plasta, when a horrendous fall at Ayr left him with serious facial injuries and scuppered his dreams of taking the title.
Worse was to come in 2007 when he was one of four jockeys warned off for passing on information for reward and received a one-year ban from the BHA disciplinary panel.
Winston rebuilt his career, first with Barry Hills and then with Dean Ivory, with whom he formed lasting relationships with leading sprinters Tropics, Caspian Prince and Librisa Breeze, whom he steered to victory in the 2017 Group 1 Champions Sprint at Ascot.
However, opportunities to ride quality horses have become scarcer for Winston this year after he lost the mount on the likes of Stratum, Withhold and Librisa Breeze for owner Tony Bloom, while injury and the requirements to keep his weight in check became too much.
“I had a fall at Doncaster a few years back and had some fractures and my heart wasn’t really in it at that point. Then I came across Librisa Breeze who kept me going and gave me that buzz again,” he said.
Winston in numbers
136 most winners in a British season (2006)
4 number of times he broke through £1m prize-money barrier (2004, 2005, 2006, 2017)
105 winners for Dean Ivory, more than any other trainer
2 Group 1 wins (Magical Romance and Librisa Breeze)
5 highest position in the Flat jockeys' championship (2005, 2006)
"I had a spill at Newcastle this year and a neck injury and I haven’t been too happy with how things have gone since then. I just felt it was the right time.
“There’s always things that you look back on and would like to change but things happen for a reason and I’m happy with my whole career. It’s been a rollercoaster of a journey that’s for sure, but if it was different I wouldn’t be where I am today. I have a lovely family and a fiancee and my home to fall back on.
“I can’t look back and say I wish I’d been there or here or whatever as I wouldn’t have had the career I did.”
Winston is set to help out with his fiancee’s spelling and boarding business Impel Equines in the short term, but is already eager to get back into racing in the near future.
He added: “I’m going to be at home helping out with those for the time being. However, I will be looking for other opportunities in the future and if the right one came along I wouldn’t hesitate to look at it.”
Four of the best
Winston teamed up with trainer Brian Meehan to great effect in the early 2000s and the highlight of their time together was Magical Romance’s 40-1 Cheveley Park triumph in 2004. It was a first Group 1 for Winston but the last time Magical Romance won. The filly was later sold for 4.6 million guineas to Lady Rothschild in 2006.
The horse who kept Winston in the saddle. Prior to owner Tony Bloom and trainer Dean Ivory taking charge of the dashing grey in late 2015, Winston had been close to retiring. Librisa Breeze convinced him to put off retirement and the pair captured two major handicaps at Ascot before winning the Group 1 Champions Sprint at the course in 2017.
Horse and jockey only teamed up twice but made a memorable impression when winning last year’s Northumberland Plate. Winston controlled the pace from the front before romping to victory in Newcastle’s biggest Flat race.
Bought for just 2,500gns from Godolphin by Graham Thorner, Tropics proved a star for trainer Dean Ivory and his trusty ally Winston. Horse and rider won eight times together, including big sprint handicaps, Listed races and a Group 3, while they also claimed second spot in two major sprints – the 2014 July Cup and the Champions Sprint the same year.
Robert Winston CV
Full name Robert Francis Winston
Born Dublin, November 28, 1979
Apprentice to Richard Fahey, Malton, North Yorkshire
First winner The Butterwick Kid, Nottingham, April 21, 1997
First big-race winner Superior Premium (1998 Stewards' Cup)
First Group winner Golden Nun (2004 Ballyogan Stakes)
Group 1 winners Magical Romance (2004 Cheveley Park Stakes), Librisa Breeze (2017 British Champions Sprint)
Group 2 winners South Central (2008 Norfolk Stakes), Prime Defender (2010 Duke of York Stakes), Red Jazz (2010 Challenge Stakes), Caspar Netscher (2011 Gimcrack Stakes)
Royal Ascot winners Masta Plasta (2005 Norfolk Stakes), South Central (2008 Norfolk Stakes)
Last winner Precious Plum, Wolverhampton, August 30, 2019
Lester Award (Flat Ride of the Year) 2016: Librisa Breeze, Totescoop6 Cup Handicap, Ascot
Champion apprentice 1999
Number of British centuries Four
Most wins in a year in Britain 136 in 2006
Total wins in Britain 1,627 in 23 years
Compiled by John Randall
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