ANDREW THORNTON has retired from riding, calling time on a 29-year career that saw him partner more than 1,000 National Hunt winners.

The Gold Cup-winning jockey, who was born in Bishopton, between Darlington and Stockton, began his career with Bishop Auckland trainer Arthur Stephenson and claimed his first winner at Sedgefield in November 1991.

He has spent the last three decades establishing a reputation as one of the most successful and popular figures in the weighing room, claiming big-race victories on the likes of See More Business, French Holly, The Listener and Miko De Beauchene.

However, he has struggled with injuries in recent seasons, even damaging his knee as he dismounted from his 1,000th winner, and has decided to end his riding career at the age of 45.

He said: “I had a winner for Seamus (Mullins) at the start of the season, he’s having a good run of things but I'm not getting as many rides as I used to and I just felt I had to grow up. Father Time is catching me up and I'd like to do it on my own terms."

Thornton’s first ride under rules was on one of Stephenson’s horses in November 1990, a time when Peter Scudamore was the champion jockey.

He recorded his first win on Wrekin Hill 12 months later, and the high point of his career came in 1998 when he partnered 25-1 shot Cool Dawn to victory in the Cheltenham Gold Cup for trainer Robert Alner.

He also rode French Holly to victory in the Sun Alliance Novices’ Hurdle in the same season, and his most successful campaign came in 2003-04 when he totted up 86 winners to finish fifth in the jockeys’ championship behind Sir Anthony McCoy.

He has had 9,811 career rides, recording 1,006 victories, and has ridden at least one winner for 176 different trainers.

“I've got a lot to look back on,” he said. “I rode my first winner on Wrekin Hill on November 22 in 1991, he was a cracking horse for me to get started on. I rode my first three winners on him. I owe WA (Stephenson) everything, I wouldn't be where I am now without him.

“My wife asked me this morning if I was sure, but I absolutely am, I've no regrets. People talk about the end of an era, but I've probably spanned two eras."