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Tuesday, 11 December, 2018

Smith ends riding career at 65 on former Twiston-Davies inmate

Mark Smith in action in advance of his racing return
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Jockeys seem to go on for much longer these days and that is certainly the case for former amateur Mark Smith, who has his final point-to-point ride at the age of 65 at Buckfastleigh in Devon next Sunday.

Remarkably, Smith will be in action in the same race he had his first ride in as a 15-year-old 50 years ago when he finished third.

Since then, Smith, who rode a handful of winners under rules, has trained and ridden event horses as well as coached children in that discipline, while he has also taken part in showjumping and team chasing, raising money for a breast cancer charity.

"It's exactly the same race, exactly the same venue and exactly the same day, but it'd be a bit too much to ask for the same horse," says Smith, who has had some refresher sessions with professional jump jockey Dave Crosse.

"I was 15 then, I'm 65 now and have had 50 years of fun in between. Horses have given me a tremendous amount of fun. People who know me know I want to make things fun for the horse because if it's fun for the horse, it'll be a hell of a lot of fun for the rider.

"This is a good opportunity to draw a line under my career, raise some money for charity and let the youngsters have their turn.

"I'm riding a horse called Nudge And Nurdle, who used to be with Nigel Twiston-Davies. He ran more than 50 times and only fell once – that's the type I like riding these days as I'm not that keen on eating grass any more."

Smith, who reckons his final ride under rules came in 2000 and his last point-to-point mount a couple of years before that, came through the ranks with subsequent Grand National-winning jockey Jimmy Frost and will not completely retire from the saddle after Sunday as he will continue his coaching.

He says: "I had what they called a category B permit, which meant you could ride against the pros and we were allowed to do all sorts of things that would give people a fit these days!"

Those wishing to support Smith's fundraising effort can do so at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/50yearsoffun

This is a good opportunity to draw a line under my career, raise some money for charity and let the youngsters have their turn
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