Ben Pauling pays tribute as Luca Morgan calls time on riding career

Ben Pauling hailed the achievements of jockey Luca Morgan after the champion conditional announced his retirement from the saddle.

The 22-year-old has long been associated with Pauling’s Naunton Downs operation and enjoyed a stellar 2022-23 season which saw him not only lift the conditional jockeys’ title at Sandown in April, but also partner his sole Listed winner when steering Fiercely Proud to success at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day.

However, with an injury over the summer only adding to the stresses of Morgan’s career-long battle with the scales, he has now made the decision to hang up his boots and bow out.

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“It’s a very sad day for all of us to be honest and Luca has been a huge part of the team for four years,” said Pauling.

“He’s not just been an able jockey who has delivered for us on so many occasions, but he has been a massive part of the team at home and has always been a very popular member and we have always loved watching his successes.

“I personally and everyone at home has taken massive satisfaction from seeing him win the conditional jockeys’ title. It was a dream of his from a young age and it’s a proud moment for all of us that we were able to achieve that with him.”

Ben Pauling has paid tribute to his retiring jockey Luca Morgan
Ben Pauling has paid tribute to his retiring jockey Luca Morgan (Mike Egerton/PA)

It is a decision Pauling knew was always around the corner and the handler is now keen to support Morgan in whatever way he can as he embarks on a new career out of the saddle, confident he will continue to thrive away from the racecourse.

He added: “He had an injury in the summer and it has been apparent that he had been struggling and we’ve had many conversations about it. He has really given it his best shot.

“We always knew there would come a time when his weight would get the better of him and I think we all dreamt of having this season and maybe one more.

“My thoughts are primarily with Luca and it is not an easy decision for a young man of his age who has only ever wanted to be a jockey. But he is a very intelligent young man and very quick witted and he will only go from strength to strength in whatever he does next.”

Jockey Luca Morgan was a key member of Ben Pauling's team
Jockey Luca Morgan was a key member of Ben Pauling’s team (Mike Egerton/PA)

He went on: “We will be there for him in whatever he wants to do and if we can be a part of that going forward, we would be thrilled.

“It’s a sad day, but one we knew was coming at some point and it’s just a shame it has to happen.”

The Cheltenham Festival-winning handler praised Morgan’s “brave decision”, pointing out his talent as a jockey can never be questioned as he bows out at the peak of his riding powers.

Fiercely Proud (right) was Luca Morgan's biggest career success
Fiercely Proud (right) was Luca Morgan’s biggest career success (David Davies/PA)

“It is exceptionally brave and those of us who have never had to fight with our weight will never understand the stresses that can put on you personally, mentally and physically,” said Pauling.

“So it is a brave decision and it is the right decision and he goes out as champion conditional.

“Everyone can see the ability and talent that he has and he will be remembered for that.

“I’m hugely grateful for the days he has given me, my team, my wife Sophie, who adores him, and our owners. There have been some great times and he will be fondly remembered.”

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