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By Peter Scargill | 03 Jul 2023 |

n The Spotlight (Martin Dwyer Up), winner of The McDowell Signature Premier Indian Derby (Gr.1)

Classic-winning jockey Martin Dwyer said he was proud of all he had achieved after a serious knee injury forced him to bring an end to his riding career on Sunday.

Dwyer, 48, confirmed he would not ride again, 16 months on from tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee and damaging bone in the same area after a fall while riding out for Brian Meehan in March 2022.

Despite twice undergoing surgery on the injury joint, Dwyer was unable to get back to a position where his knee could withstand the strains of race riding.

“I knew early on that it was a serious injury as it was the ligament and the top of the bone,” Dwyer said on Sunday. “I had a second operation on it two months ago and I wanted to see how I came out of that before I did anything.

“I spoke with the surgeon and he told me that I would be able to get back to a good quality of life with the knee but it is going to be problematic ongoing and it’s just not going to be strong and stable enough to ride professionally – it won’t stand up to it.

“I've tried everything. I’m still doing all the things [in rehab] to get back to be able to run – I want to be in a position to run for a bus and I can’t do anything like that at the moment.”

Dwyer, who was born in Aintree, Liverpool, started out in racing aged 15 when apprentice to Ian Balding at Kingsclere. He finished second in the 1996 apprentice jockeys’ championship and progressed to regularly competing in the biggest Flat races.

The rider’s Group 1 breakthrough came on Casual Look in the 2003 Oaks at Epsom, with his biggest moment in the saddle coming three years later when Sir Percy won the 2006 Derby. Dwyer went on to complete the clean sweep of Group 1s at Epsom when Pyledriver won the Coronation Cup in 2021 for his father-in-law William Muir.

Dwyer also won the Group 1 Hong Kong Vase and Dubai Sheema Classic on Phoenix Reach and the Group 1 Grand Criterium on Nayarra as well as becoming widely known as the partner of the legendary Persian Punch in the final races of his career, most notably when winning the 2003 Jockey Club Cup at Newmarket, the year after he rode a personal best of 106 winners in 2002. His final success came on Lucky Eva at Chelmsford on February 3 last year.

Following his retirement, Dwyer is set to take on more media work for Racing TV and as an ambassador for a bookmaker. He said he had been humbled by the reaction to his decision and proud of the career he had made for himself as a jockey.

“I’ve been a bit overwhelmed,” he said. “When you say it out loud it becomes real and I’ve been a jockey for my whole adult life, so it’s a big thing for me.

“My phone’s not stopped and I’m not an emotional guy but I have found it tough. People have been coming up to me and been shaking my hand and it’s been really humbling. It’s been a tough morning but I know I can move on now and I’m ready for it.

“I’m proud that I tried my best and was able to achieve more than I ever thought I would do. Winning the three Group 1s at Epsom is something I'm proud of achieving. I came into racing with no background in the sport, no family members in it, and I worked hard to get to where I did. I think that’s the sport we’re in, it’s one you can achieve anything in."

Martin Dwyer CV

Full name Martin Joseph Dwyer

Born Liverpool, June 28, 1975

Apprenticed to Ian Balding, Kingsclere, Hampshire

First ride Lochore (last of 9) Warwick, March 28, 1992

First winner Susquehanna Days, Warwick, July 9, 1993

First Group winner Halmahera (1997 Cornwallis Stakes)

Derby winner Sir Percy (2006)

Oaks winner Casual Look (2003)

Coronation Cup winner Pyledriver (2021)

Canadian International winner Phoenix Reach (2003)

Hong Kong Vase winner Phoenix Reach (2004)

Dubai Sheema Classic winner Phoenix Reach (2005)

King's Stand Stakes winner Dominica (2002)

Dewhurst Stakes winner Sir Percy (2005)

Gran Criterium winner Nayarra (2011)

Other European Classic winner Briseida (2008 German 1,000 Guineas)

Indian Derby winner In The Spotlight (2012)

Last winner Lucky Ava, Chelmsford, February 3, 2022

Most prolific Pattern winner Persian Punch (4): 2002 Jockey Club Cup, 2003 Goodwood Cup, Doncaster Cup, Jockey Club Cup

Group/Grade 1 wins 8

Royal Ascot wins 8

Most wins in a year in Britain 106 (2002)

Total wins in Britain 1,543 in 30 seasons

Lester Awards Flat Ride of the Year: 2003 (Persian Punch, Jockey Club Cup), 2006 (Sir Percy, Derby)

Compiled by John Randall