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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 September 2006, 17:23 GMT 18:23 UK
Jockey Fitzgerald set to retire
Mick Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald rode his first winner in 1988
Jump jockey Mick Fitzgerald is to retire at the end of the season.

The Irishman is one of an elite group of riders to have won both the Grand National and the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Despite an injury-plagued career, the 36-year-old has also won most of the major races in the jumping calendar and has ridden more than 1,000 winners.

"You can't go on forever and I've been very lucky. I've had a fantastic run," said Fitzgerald, who is to become director of a racing club.

The loquacious Irishman captured the Cheltenham Gold Cup on See More Business in 1999 and famously described his 1996 Grand National win on Rough Quest as "better than sex".

I wanted to go out at the top on my terms

Mick Fitzgerald

Other big wins include the Queen Mother Champion Chase on Call Equiname in 1999 and the Stayers' Hurdle on Bacchanal in 2000, the same year that he won the Arkle Trophy on Tiutchev.

Fitzgerald, who has been stable jockey to Nicky Henderson for over 10 years, rode his first winner in 1988 at Ludlow.

He and Henderson have proved a formidable combination - their numerous big-race victories include winning the Tote Gold Trophy three times.

"Some of the horses I've ridden have been fantastic - I owe them everything," said the Cork-born rider, who has also carved out a reputation as an expert TV pundit.

"I'm not finished yet, I've got some fantastic horses to look forward to riding for Nicky this year, too."

Fitzgerald's long catalogue of injuries include an ankle problem, which kept him out for five months in 2003, a broken arm in 2004 and a broken neck in 2005.

Mick's been a fantastic jockey and his record speaks for itself

Tony McCoy

"I wanted to go out at the top on my terms and this is probably the best way to do it," he said.

Fitzgerald's weighing room colleagues were quick to pay tribute.

Champion rider Tony McCoy said: "He's been a fantastic jockey and his record speaks for itself.

"It must be hard for him, but it's obviously something he's thought about a lot.

Andrew Thornton described him as "the ultimate professional".

He added: "He's been very dedicated and very honest in his opinions throughout his career.

"He wasn't handed it on a plate. He's had to work for everything he's got and he's deserved it."

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