Tag Archive for: Mick fitzgerald

Racing great Altior retires

Dual Queen Mother Champion Chase hero Altior has been retired, trainer Nicky Henderson has announced.

In a glittering career that yielded 21 victories from 26 starts, Altior won 10 Grade One races.

He also won at the Cheltenham Festival four years in a row, with the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2016 and the Arkle Trophy in 2017 preceding his back-to-back triumphs in the Champion Chase in 2018 and 2019.

Altior and Nico de Boinville en route to victory in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival
Altior and Nico de Boinville en route to victory in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival (Mike Egerton/PA)

The jumping great went on an unbeaten 19-race run from October 2015 to April 2019, and amassed £1,320,795 in prize money throughout his career.

“We are all sad to have to say that Altior is going into honorary retirement after what has been a fantastic innings which was obviously highlighted by his 19 consecutive victories,” Henderson told Unibet.

“His owners, Christopher and Pat Pugh feel that now he is 11, turning 12, they would like him to retire while still at his peak, fit, sound and healthy and ready for a new career.

“It has been a fantastic journey since Minty (David Minton) and I bought him at the Land Rover Sale as a three-year-old by the late High Chaparral.

“It’s a very tough decision to make, but I am pretty sure he has enjoyed every moment of it as much as we all have.”

Altior is going to spend his retirement with Mick Fitzgerald, a former stable jockey of Henderson’s and now TV pundit.

Henderson added: “He goes out unblemished and very nearly unbeaten, and for his retirement he is going to be looked after by Mick and Chloe Fitzgerald – and I know they are as happy as we are that he is going to have a long and happy retirement with them just two miles down the road from us.

“There is no doubt you will all see him again at our open day, and I’m sure he will be on parade at Cheltenham, but Mick and his family will keep him entertained and busy and most of all happy – which is what we all want.

“All good things must come to an end, and unfortunately that time has come. It is the end of a wonderful era we will never, ever want to forget.”

Patricia Pugh paid her own tribute, saying: “Altior is a once-in-a-generation horse, and Chris and I are so fortunate to have been a part of his life since 2013.

“We thank the brilliant team at Seven Barrows, the genius Nicky Henderson and of course all the wonderful racegoers who have supported Altior throughout his career. We could not wish for a better place for Altior’s retirement than a home with Mick and Chloe Fitzgerald.”

Fitzgerald said: “It’s an absolute honour to have a horse who has done as much as he has, and I’ve followed his career all the way through and am delighted that he is now going to be part of our family.

“We are going to get him to our place, let him settle in and just see how we get on. There are no plans whatsoever – we’re just going to let him tell us what he likes doing and take it from there, but one thing I can guarantee is he’s going to have a very nice time.”

Jockey Sam Twiston-Davies also voiced his appreciation for Altior – even though in opposition, he found himself chasing in vain behind Henderson’s superstar and his regular rider Nico de Boinville, who rode him on all but three of his jumps appearances.

Twiston-Davies told Sky Sports Racing: “He’s been an amazing horse – (it’s) always sad to hear (of retirement), because he was such a champion, but lovely to see he’s going out after so many great days.

“I’ve chased him round plenty, but I’m sure he’ll be missed by many of the jockeys. Even when you weren’t riding against him, he was a pleasure to watch – the way he went about things.

“You’d watch him in some of those races at Cheltenham – turning in Nico would give him a kick, and off he’d go.

“If you weren’t riding in the races you’d watch him and be cheering him on.”

De Boinville was almost always in the driving seat – and on the day Altior retired, he recalled his experience via Twitter.

He wrote: “We enjoyed some incredible days with Altior. Horses like him don’t come along very often. I’m very thankful to Patricia and Christopher Pugh & the team at Seven Barrows. We are all wishing Altior a long and happy retirement.”

De Boinville later told Unibet: “He was a phenomenal, athletic racehorse – and I hope he will spend a very long and happy retirement with Mick and Chloe Fitzgerald.

“I feel sad that I won’t get to ride him in a race again but I shall cherish the memories we share together and will forever be thankful for what he achieved with me on his back.”

He nominated Altior’s hard-fought victory over Un De Sceaux in the 2018 Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown as one of his favourite performances.

“There are so many highlights to choose from,” said De Boinville.

“It’s hard to pick one out, but the Supreme he won was probably one of the best renewals we’ve seen in a very long time, so that is extremely memorable.

“But he was an absolute beast over fences, and I’ll never forget the performance he put up against Un De Sceaux in the 2018 Tingle Creek.

“It was hammering down with rain, and the ground was heavy, but he showed such guts and determination to win.

“All his wins at Cheltenham were just incredible to be associated with, and it’s what every jockey dreams of getting hold of.”

British trainers react with ‘outrage and disgust’ to Elliott social media image

British trainers have voiced their “outrage and disgust” at the photograph of Gordon Elliott sitting on a dead horse which has shocked British and Irish racing.

Grand National and Gold Cup-winning trainer Elliott will be “cooperating fully” with an Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board investigation into the incident.

After County Meath-based Elliott confirmed the image – posted on Twitter on Saturday night – is genuine, counterparts in Britain have made their disquiet clear to the national representative body.

A statement on Monday read: “From yesterday evening through today, the National Trainers Federation has been contacted by its members expressing outrage and disgust at the image of Gordon Elliott circulating on social media.

“Although Mr Elliott is based in Ireland, the NTF – which represents trainers based in Great Britain – wishes the public to be in no doubt that its members distance themselves from the behaviour on display in that image, and want to emphasise their deeply felt values of care, respect and love for the racehorse.

“These values underpin the public’s confidence in the sport, and are indispensable to the future prosperity of all who work in horseracing.”

Grand National-winning jockey Mick Fitzgerald spoke of his shock and sadness after discovering the image was genuine.

Fitzgerald, a Cheltenham Gold Cup winner too in his distinguished riding career, initially thought and hoped the photograph on Elliott’s gallops was a fake – until a statement from the trainer dispelled those doubts on Sunday.

Fitzgerald told Sky Sports Racing: “When I read that statement, I can’t help but feel anything else but so sad.

“The number one thing we have to get out to everybody is how much we care about these horses.

“It is so important that everybody who is watching this channel, who has any interest at all in our sport, knows that at the heart of this are people who love these animals.”

Fitzgerald spoke personally, and also on the wider topic of the public’s perception of racing.

He said: “My initial reaction to it was ‘I hope it’s a fake’. That was what I thought – ‘it has to be fake’.

“It’s making me quite emotional, because these horses have given me a life that I’m privileged to have, and it just makes me feel so sad.

“I’ve been in situations where horses that I have looked after and ridden have unfortunately paid the ultimate sacrifice in our sport, and the care and attention they get right to the end – we have to emphasise to everyone watching that people care for these horses.

“We want to celebrate them (horses) and make them realise how much we care for them and how much they are loved by everybody in the sport.

“Anyone watching has to realise that we have nothing but the interests of these animals at heart.”

National-winning rider Fitzgerald’s sadness at Elliott picture

Grand National-winning jockey Mick Fitzgerald has spoken of his shock and sadness after discovering the image of trainer Gordon Elliott sitting on a dead horse was genuine.

Fitzgerald, a Cheltenham Gold Cup winner too in his distinguished riding career, initially thought and hoped the photograph on Elliott’s gallops was a fake.

The hugely successful Irish trainer, however, confirmed that is not the case in a statement on Sunday night – having already announced he will be “cooperating fully” with an ongoing investigation into the incident by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board.

Fitzgerald told Sky Sports Racing: “When I read that statement, I can’t help but feel anything else but so sad.

“The number one thing we have to get out to everybody is how much we care about these horses.

“It is so important that everybody who is watching this channel, who has any interest at all in our sport, knows that at the heart of this are people who love these animals.”

Fitzgerald spoke personally, and also on the wider topic of the public’s perception of racing.

He said: “My initial reaction to it was ‘I hope it’s a fake’. That was what I thought – ‘it has to be fake’.

“It’s making me quite emotional, because these horses have given me a life that I’m privileged to have, and it just makes me feel so sad.

“I’ve been in situations where horses that I have looked after and ridden have unfortunately paid the ultimate sacrifice in our sport, and the care and attention they get right to the end – we have to emphasise to everyone watching that people care for these horses.

“We want to celebrate them (horses) and make them realise how much we care for them and how much they are loved by everybody in the sport.

“Anyone watching has to realise that we have nothing but the interests of these animals at heart.”