Shergar Cup sensation Sammy Jo Bell announces the end of her riding career
Sammy Jo Bell, who looked on the verge of becoming a Flat racing force when riding two winners as an apprentice at the 2015 Shergar Cup, has retired after admitting to dissatisfaction with her subsequent progress.
Revealing her news to the Racing Post, Bell, who was sidelined for ten months from May 2016, having sustained a serious fracture of the pelvis in an accident at Carlisle, also went public on being appointed to a temporary placement position with York racecourse.
The Northern Ireland-born 27-year-old seemed set for big things when making the most of a late call-up to the Ascot international jockeys' competition by claiming the Silver Saddle prize for the meeting's top rider.
However, after ending 2015 with 28 winners, she last year managed only 16 and has taken a pragmatic decision to seek a fresh challenge.
"It's something I've been thinking about for quite a long time," she said on Monday.
"I came back from the injury, but I didn't really get out of it what I'd wanted. I rode 16 winners from 167 rides last year, which is good, and I know a lot of people would cut their arm off to have that, but it wasn't enough for me.
"I tried as hard as I possibly could when I came back. I felt I rode as good as I ever had. I don't think there was anything I could've done differently and there are no rides I look back on and think of as awful.
"Even so, I'm 27 and I think you have to draw a line somewhere. I've decided it's time to move on."
Bell, who was based with Richard Fahey having worked for Jim Bolger and Kevin Prendergast before leaving Ireland, was forced to spend eight weeks in a wheelchair after a horse reared and fell on her at Carlisle.
More recently she again underwent major surgery to remove metalwork, and has just completed another long period of rehabilitation.
"I knew I had to make a final decision about whether to start riding out again and then come back to race-riding or to finish," she added.
"By delaying an announcement I was giving myself the option of changing my mind. Being a jockey was something I'd always wanted to do but I knew I had to make the decision as opposed to prolonging things. I wanted to get this done before moving on to the next chapter."
Bell partnered 72 winners in Britain, having earlier enjoyed ten successes in Ireland. She also bowed out on a victory with what proved to be her final mount, the Pam Sly-trained All My Love, scoring at Catterick on October 10.
"I haven't been emotional about this – although perhaps once this gets published I might feel different, as this is the final part of the process," she said.
"This is the closing stage. I will miss it, because there's nothing that gives you the same buzz or adrenaline rush as race-riding, but I'm sure I'm doing the right thing."
Sammy Jo Bell: numbers and highlights
28 winners in best year (2015)
82 career winners
51 winners for Richard Fahey
£740,951 won in British prize-money
Memorable moment one With her career barely started she enjoyed a first success aboard Celtic Dane for boss Kevin Prendergast at Leopardstown. "It was Guineas trial day and only the third ride I'd had," she says, adding: "I'll never forget that day."
Memorable moment two Makes headlines aplenty by claiming the Shergar Cup Silver Saddle thanks to Ascot wins on Royal Signaller and Shell Bay, the double helping the Girls team land the overall prize. "I was buzzing about it for days," she says.
Memorable moment three A Beverley sprint handicap success in April 2016 on Arctic Feeling takes her record on the Richard Fahey stalwart to seven wins. The horse now lives with Bell's mother in Northern Ireland.
Sammy Jo worked extremely hard to come back from her injury. She discussed her decision to stop some time ago & it was clear it was the right thing. She has some exciting opportunities ahead. We will miss her— Richard Fahey (@RichardFahey) February 12, 2018
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Read a full exclusive interview with Sammy Jo Bell from 6pm on Tuesday