There was disappointing news on Monday morning morning as jockey Robert 'Choc' Thornton was forced to retire through injury. The 37-year-old jock took a terrible fall on Say When at Chepstow back in April 2014 and after initially hoping to make a return to the saddle, he has been forced to call it a day due to ongoing issues with his neck and upper limbs.
Thornton is perhaps best known for his exploits at the Cheltenham Festival where he picked up 16 winners during his career and we thought this would be the ideal time to pick out some of his more memorable winners.
A Champion Hurdle win is always a big moment during the career of a jockey and that was certainly the case in 2008 when Thornton rode Katchit to glory in one of the biggest races of the season. The little horse was as brave as they came and proved it at his favourite track once again to win for Alan King and Thornton. Katchit was the first horse since 1968 to win the Triumph Hurdle and the Champion Hurdle in successive years which highlights how difficult it is for 5-year-old horses to win the day one feature and although it wasn't the strongest Champion Hurdle, it was a massive moment in the career of the Robert Thornton.
2007 Queen Mother Champion Chase - Voy Por Ustedes
It is safe to say that Voy Por Ustedes was the best horse in terms of consistency of Thornton's entire career with the pair of them building up a formidable partnership during the mid to late 2000's. The pinnacle for Voy Por Ustedes and Choc Thornton came on a wonderful day in March 2007 when they won the Queen Mother Champion Chase in terrific fashion. It was an excellent performance form a horse who went onto become a hugely consistent animal through the following few years. Voy Por Ustedes was 2nd in the Champion Chase the following season, he was 2nd in the Ryanair Chase in 2009 and remained top class right up until his retirement in 2011.
2006 World Hurdle - My Way De Solzen
My Way De Solzen was a dual Festival winner for Thornton with his biggest success coming back in 2006 when he claimed the day three feature race. It was My Way De Solzen who was the World Hurdle winner for Thornton and he was a very tough horse for Alan King. Winning a World Hurdle at the age of six is a big ask for any horse while he as far from the easiest ride for Thornton with the horse idling up the hill only to win by a head in famous circumstances. Much of that credit must go to the jockey who never gave up and although My Way De Solzen would also win an Arkle the following year, it is this World Hurdle success that sticks in the mind.
2008 Supreme Novices Hurdle - Captain Cee Bee
Captain Cee Bee had a nine year career and although Choc Thornton only ever rode the JP McManus horse once in all of that time, he made a massive impression. Thornton only got the chance to ride Captain Cee Bee in the 2008 Supreme Novices Hurdle after AP McCoy switched to Binocular at the last minute in what turned out to be a big mistake from the Champ. Binocular travelled like the winner for much of the way but was out-battled up the hill by Captain Cee Bee who won a touch cosily in the end under an excellent ride from Choc Thornton, who picked up yet another Festival winner and his only Supreme success of his career.