The Jockey's Journal: Robert ‘Choc’ Thornton the last of a dying breed

The Jockey's Journal: Robert ‘Choc’ Thornton the last of a dying breed

ROBERT Thornton announced his retirement through injury at the age of 37 last week, which I was very sad to read.

Thornton, or ‘Choc’ as we called him around the tracks, was a real old school jockey, and a very good one at that – I remember he had a six-timer at Cheltenham one year and I think he had around 1250 winners over the course of his career, so he’s up there in an exclusive club who’ve passed the 1,000 wins milestone.

The first time I met him was at a bar in Aintree at four o’clock in the morning, and he was riding the national the next day! But then he was brought up in the era where the attitude was to play hard and work hard.

Down over the years jump jockeys would have only lasted until the age of 32 or so, when you’d either have to retire through injury or you’d be convinced you were too old.

But AP McCoy and Dickie Johnson have changed that, they’ve raised the bar to 40 because of the lifestyle example they’ve set.

When I started in racing, most jockeys were not married, had no kids and were in the bar six nights a week despite getting up at 5am every morning.

But times have changed, we’re more professional now and most don’t drink at all, while being married with children can help the stability of your career, and trainers like that.

‘Choc’ was fortunate in that had a great relationship with Alan King. A lot of jockeys go through a career without forging a strong relationship with a trainer and that can cause real heartache and tough times.

But throughout all Thornton’s injury problems he’s always had a yard to come back to, and his relationship with King was key to that, but it was only towards the end of his career that he started getting broken up.

He tried to keep up that old school spirit for as long as he could but the game was changing so he had to change with the times as well. It’s a shame that he can’t continue, but I bet he has no regrets.


Abdon to win the 2.50 at Newmarket on Saturday