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Cheltenham Marks Mick Fitzgerald’s Retirement at The Showcase
30/09/08

The recent retirement of popular jockey Mick Fitzgerald will be marked on day two of The Showcase at Cheltenham, Saturday, October 18, when the card plays host to the £10,000 Mick Fitzgerald Novices’ Hurdle (3.25pm) over an extended three miles and a furlong.

The 38-year-old Irishman was forced to hang up his boots on medical advice after suffering a serious neck injury from a fall at the second fence in this year’s John Smith’s Grand National at Aintree. He enjoyed an illustrious career in the saddle that yielded 14 Festival successes at Cheltenham.

At the age of 18, Fitzgerald moved to Britain to further his career and he began riding for John Jenkins and Richard Tucker. He rode his first British winner, Lovers Secret, at Ludlow in December, 1988, and enjoyed a fruitful link with trainer Jackie Retter in his early years.

However, it was Mick’s long association with Nicky Henderson that boosted his profile, partnering numerous big-race winners for the trainer. The Seven Barrows handler provided Fitzgerald with his first Festival victory, with Raymylette capturing the 1994 Cathcart Chase in the colours of Lady Lloyd Webber.

He also rode for Paul Nicholls and enjoyed his biggest success for the Ditcheat trainer aboard See More Business in the 1999 totesport Gold Cup, while he partnered Nicholls’ Neptune Collonges into third in this year’s contest.

Fitzgerald announced that he was retiring from race-riding at the end of the 2006/07 season, but he soon reconsidered his decision saying: "I am still so much in love with the sport that I just cannot contemplate giving it up right now."

It proved to be the right decision, as he partnered 71 winners in his final season, showing that he hadn’t lost any of his appetite for the game.

Fitzgerald was crowned leading rider at The Festival in 1999 and 2000 with four wins on both occasions and recorded his most recent Festival success on Non So in the 2006 Racing Post Plate.

His final winner at the track came on the exciting Jack The Giant in the CFR Group (Electrical & Mechanical) Services Handicap Hurdle for Henderson on December 14, 2007.

On Saturday, October 18, the racecourse management will make a presentation to Fitzgerald, whose other wins at Prestbury Park include the Seasons Holidays Queen Mother Champion Chase on Call Equiname (1999), the Ladbrokes World Hurdle on Bacchanal (2000), the Irish Independent Arkle Trophy on Tiutchev (2000), the Royal & SunAlliance Chase on Trabolgan (2005) and the Ryanair Chase on Fondmort (2006).

The Showcase on Friday, October 17 and Saturday, October 18, is the curtain raiser to what promises to be another fantastic year at Prestbury Park. The feature race on the opening day is the £30,000 IG Index Handicap Chase (4.05pm), over three miles and half a furlong, while the valuable £25,000 Jewson Novices’ Handicap Hurdle Race Final (3.30pm) is also on the seven-race card.

The highlight of Saturday’s card is the £50,000 Dick Francis “Silks” Handicap Chase (2.50pm), over an extended two and a half miles, which is sure to provided plenty of clues for the £150,000 Paddy Power Gold Cup, the centrepiece of The Open (November 14, 15 and 16).

Meeting - The Showcase, Cheltenham Racecourse

Dates - Friday, October 17 & Saturday, October 18

First race - 2.20pm (both days)

Admission prices - Club/Tattersalls from £18. Best Mate from £9. Accompanied children under 16 admitted FREE to all enclosures. FREE car parking. Tickets available from www.cheltenham.co.uk or by calling 08445 793 003.

Mick Fitzgerald
Date/place of birth: Cork, 10/05/1970 Background: Raised in Camolin, County Wexford, Mick Fitzgerald was talent-spotted at the age of 16 by local trainer Richard Lister when exercising his pony. After leaving school, he signed as an apprentice with Lister before moving on to John Hayden's Curragh-based yard where he remained - without riding a winner - for two seasons. His rising weight resulted in a switch to the National Hunt scene and at the age of 18 he made the move to Britain where he began riding for John Jenkins and Richard Tucker. He rode his first British winner, Lovers Secret, at Ludlow in December, 1988, and came to prominence through his fruitful association with another trainer Jackie Retter. He has enjoyed a long association with Nicky Henderson for whom he has partnered numerous big-race winners. He has also ridden for Paul Nicholls and enjoyed his biggest success for the Ditcheat trainer aboard See More Business in the 1999 totesport Gold Cup. He was again in the saddle when the brilliant gelding took the 2000 Bowl at Aintree. In 1996, he partnered Rough Quest to victory in the Aintree Grand National. Other horses he has been associated with include Trabolgan, Marlborough, Geos, Landing Light, Kauto Star and Remittance Man. Fitzgerald was leading rider at the Cheltenham Festival in 1999 and 2000 and announced that he would be retiring from the saddle at the end of the 2006/07 season, but he reconsidered his decision in April, 2007, saying “I am still so much in love with the sport I just cannot contemplate giving it up right now”. He was seriously injured in the 2008 Grand National, when falling from L’Ami at the second fence. First Winner Under Rules (Britain): Lovers Secret, Ludlow, December 20, 1988 Cheltenham Festival Wins: (14) Cathcart Chase (1994 Raymylette, 1999 and 2000 Stormyfairweather), William Hill Trophy Chase (1995 Rough Quest, 2000 Marlborough), JCB Triumph Hurdle (1999 Katarino), Queen Mother (1999 Call Equiname), Tote Cheltenham Gold Cup (1999 See More Business), Irish Independent Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase (2000 Tiutchev), Ladbrokes World Hurdle (2000 Bacchanal), Coral Cup (2003 Xenophon), Royal & SunAlliance Chase (2005 Trabolgan), Ryanair Chase (2006 Fondmort), Racing Post Plate (2006 Non So) Leading Rider at The Festival: 2000 (4), 1999 (4). Other Big Race Wins: Grand National Chase (1996 Rough Quest), Aintree Hurdle (Bimsey 1997), Bowl Chase (2000 See More Business), Mildmay Novices’ Chase (2003 Irish Hussar), Sefton Novices’ Hurdle (2007 Chief Dan George), Agfa Diamond Chase (1996 Amtrak Express), Aon Chase (2000 See More Business), Charlie Hall Chase (1999 and 2000 See More Business, 2002 Marlborough), Desert Orchid H’cap Chase (2000 Fadalko), Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle (1999 Premier Generation), Feltham Novices’ Chase (2006 Ungaro), Finale Juvenile Hurdle (2005 Blue Shark, 2006 Good Bye Simon), First National Gold Cup (2003 Iris Royal), Game Spirit Chase (1999 Celibate), Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup (2005 Trabolgan), Tote Lanzarote Hcap Hurdle (1999 Tiutchev), Mitie Group Kennel Gate Hurdle (1998 Hidebound), Paddy Power Gold Cup (2003 Fondmort), Pendil Novices’ Chase (1999 Makounji), Rossington Main Novices’ Hurdle (2000 Dusk Duel), Tingle Creek Trophy Chase (2005 Kauto Star), Tote Gold Trophy Chase (2001 Marlborough), Tote Gold Trophy Hcap Hurdle (2000 Geos, 2001 Landing Light), Tripleprint Gold Cup (2002 Fondmort, 2003 Iris Royal), Victor Chandler Chase (Big Matt 1996, Isio 2004), Champion 4YO hurdle (2007 Punjabi), Ladbroke Hurdle (2007 Jack The Giant) Number of Wins (1995/96-2007/08): 68; 82; 102; 121; 107; 78; 109; 77; 51; 65; 62; 60; 71 Total wins 1,303 (762 for Nicky Henderson)

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