Swinburn's career at the crossroads

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 April, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 April, 1997, 12:00am

Walter Swinburn has blamed a problem with his metabolism for the weight worries that have ultimately led to his surprise sabbatical from race-riding in the build-up to the European Classics.

Swinburn, who now misses the rides on Entrepreneur, the favourite for the Derby at Epsom on June 7 and one of the chief fancies for the 2,000 Guineas on May 3, said he first noticed a change in his metabolism when he was due to ride at Redcar, in the North of England, earlier last month.

'I was due to ride at 8st 12lb (124 pounds) but I was astonished to find on the morning of the race that I was down to 116 pounds and I assumed I had overdone things,' he told journalist Monty Court in the Sporting Life.

Swinburn said he followed the same diet and routine the following day and his weight had soared back to 123 pounds.

He blamed an ankle injury sustained in a stalls incident at Nottingham shortly after for an absence from exercise and his fitness routine.

Speaking to the Sporting Life - the only newspaper to have gained access to the jockey last week - Swinburn vowed to return to the saddle, but perhaps significantly, he set no target dates or deadlines.

'But it will happen,' he insisted.

The Walter Swinburn story is one of the saddest in racing. A sportsman with a superb talent for riding brilliantly under an intense spotlight in the world's toughest and most demanding races, he has nevertheless had less success in coping with the pressures that go with the job.

Like Fred Archer, Lester Piggott and Steve Cauthen, Swinburn has endured a career of battling with his weight. But at 35, most believed he would be involved on a day-to-day basis at least until his early 40s. Now his career is clearly at the cross-roads, to use an over-worked cliche but one that is certainly applicable in this case.

Mick Kinane is now in the box seat in the run-up to the Classics. After much behind-the-scenes negotiating by several parties, Kinane is set to take over on Entrepreneur, while he steps in to partner Pilsudski in the Prix Ganay at Longchamp this weekend.

'I feel very sorry for Walter,' Kinane said on a rare rest day at Punchestown this week. 'He's been a friend and weighing room colleague for several years and it is terrible that he has had to step down at this time. I just hope he gets on top of the weight worries and makes a return,' he added.

Ferdy Murphy, an Irishman now firmly established as a trainer in Britain, made a triumphant return to his native land to send out Paddy's Return for a game win in the IAWS Centenary Year Champion Stayers' Hurdle at Punchestown.

After looking a sitting duck out in front, with the heavily backed Escartefigue closing fast coming to the last flight, Paddy's Return accelerated well on touching down and galloped on to score comfortably by two lengths under a well-judged ride by Norman Williamson.

There was a long gap of 12 lengths back to Derrymoyle, with Theatreworld fourth after holding every chance rounding the home turn in the three-mile contest that was run at a decent gallop designed to suit the true stayers.