Injury rules Thornton out of Cheltenham

robert thorntonThe latest absentee from the Cheltenham line up next week is not an equine one, but jockey Robert Thornton. A fall at Southwell on Monday has ruled him out for the rest of the season.

Thornton was riding Our Phylli Vera in the two-mile handicap hurdle for his boss, Alan King, when the partnership came to grief three out. Despite hitting the ground hard, and then being caught by Lilac Belle as she was brought down, the initial prognosis on Thornton was that he had escaped serious injury. At the close of racing fellow jockey Gerard Tumelty announced, “He’s very sore but he’s OK.”

Thornton was due in Exeter the following day for the ride on Musical Wedge, but gave that up to rest and seek further medical advice. Doctors established that he had a broken arm and three fractured vertebrae, which were likely to take eight or nine weeks to heal. It means Thornton will not be adding to his tally of 16 Festival winners, although he did not appear to think that was likely in any case. He said, “I probably didn’t have the strongest team for Cheltenham compared with past years, but it’s the festival and no jump jockey wants to miss it. But I suppose that’s life, unfortunately.”

Trainer Alan King said yesterday, “When I spoke to him last night I realised things were pretty bad. After the fall we all thought he was just badly bruised, but the scan has obviously said otherwise. We’ll get by, but I just feel so sorry for Choc.”

Wayne Hutchinson will pick up most of the rides for Alan King next week and in the circumstances won’t be too upset at being described as the “getting by” option. His best chance of a winner is probably Walkon, who is most likely to run in the Byrne Group Plate, but King pointed out “I could be doubly represented in quite a few races, so we’ll have to work on that.”

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