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Jimmy Quinn retirement: Britain's oldest jockey still loving racing ahead of final farewell aged 57

Jimmy Quinn, 57, has ridden over 1,500 winners from more than 22,000 rides; he announced plans to retire at the end of 2024 after initially wanting to call time immediately at Newmarket in May; Quinn recalls riding Frankel as a two-year-old

Jimmy Quinn
Image: Jimmy Quinn is calling time on a stellar career at the end of 2024

In among the hustle and bustle of Newmarket on a fresh midweek morning, Britain’s oldest jockey Jimmy Quinn is still going about his usual routine at Marco Botti’s yard – mucking out, preparing horses to be ridden and, at 57 years old, keeping himself fit for race day.

After celebrating over 1,500 winners from more than 22,000 rides, Quinn is bringing an end to his stellar race-riding career at the conclusion of the 2024 flat season.

"I'm 29 plus 27!" Quinn jokes. How does he still do it? "Train harder, go to bed earlier and lots of gym work."

It was at Newmarket racecourse at the beginning of May where Quinn made the call, although he initially planned to retire with immediate effect having refused to renew his riding licence.

He says: "I was probably having a bad 72 hours!

"I got quite a few phone calls but there was one from John Egan and he said: 'Do not do it! But, if you're going to retire, do it at the end of the season.'

"I still love the job and if you enjoy it, you keep doing it."

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Britain's oldest jockey Quinn retires this year aged 57 and recalls his memories of riding 'the machine' Frankel

Quinn is not the first weighing room legend to postpone his retirement. Frankie Dettori made headlines last year after embarking on a farewell tour, only to announce a switch to USA for the foreseeable future.

"When you look at what Frankie's done, going for the championship and riding day in, day out - it's incredible," Quinn says.

"In the last 10 years or so he's ridden one or two days a week and the big meetings so his body is going to last."

Winners and rides may have dropped right away for Quinn in recent years - he had just one winner from 80 attempts in 2023 - but at his peak, he would regularly amass over 1,000 rides in a season and reached the 100-winner milestone in the 2002 campaign.

Jimmy Quinn is Britain's oldest professional jockey
Image: Quinn is Britain's oldest professional jockey

His greatest day on the track came five years later as Kingsgate Native claimed Group One honours in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York, but it's getting the leg-up on the greatest racehorse of them all that gave Quinn one of his biggest thrills in the saddle.

Reflecting on his experience aboard Frankel, then a young superstar in the making, Quinn says: "I only rode him once as a two-year-old. I thought he was a three-year-old, he was a machine.

"The two lads who were with me when we rode him out, one was a winner and the other had finished second. They were leading me and weren't hanging around but I pulled him out and he was gone!"

Quinn is not quite hanging up his saddle just yet and is determined to continue riding out beyond the end of the year.

As for other endeavours, he is still weighing up his options.

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"I did a bit of pinhooking last year - buying foals with potential and selling as yearlings - and did quite well but I'm waiting for the economy to change. I'm not quite happy with it at the moment," he says.

"I could be a jockeys' agent but I like being outdoors too much so I don't know if I could sit in a office all day.

"Even helping the kids with coaching but would I have enough patience or be too forceful? I definitely will still be riding out."

What of the prospects of Quinn doing a Dettori and u-turning on his retirement?

"I still enjoy doing it but it's the right time," he insists. "Unless John [Egan] gives me another call!"

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