English and Irish Derby-winning jockey Alan Munro was yesterday dropped the biggest bombshell of his glittering 13-year career when he was stood down for a further nine months by Royal Hong Kong Jockey doctors.
Munro, 29, was hoping to resume race-riding in the next week or so following a trackwork fall from Universal Boss three months ago which led to a convulsion.
But now the Jockey Club's doctors, acting on advice from Dr Michael Turner, the senior medical adviser to the British Jockey Club, insist that any jockey who falls and then suffers a convulsion must have a complete year off.
There is no medical evidence whatsoever that Munro suffered an epileptic fit, just that his convulsion was brought about by a severe blow to the head. Next season, Munro was due to ride as stable jockey for the in-form local handler Alex Wong Siu-tan, and has stayed in the territory and worked tirelessly to that end during the past three months.
As recently as Sunday, the Jockey Club's director of racing Philip Johnston was saying that medical clearance was no more than a formality.
'I'm absolutely devastated,' Munro said yesterday. 'On Sunday I was celebrating and now I'm hit with this. I'm really gobsmacked. I can't believe it.' Munro added: 'When I heard the news on Sunday that I was licensed to ride for Alex subject to further tests, I was delighted as I thought this was just a formality.
'I'd already taken the relevant tests six weeks ago and passed them all so I knew there wouldn't be a problem there.
'I thought it was just a question of taking them again, taking the report down to the Jockey Club's doctors and then hoping the Club would license me to ride for the last few meetings.
'Then I was due to ride in an Invitation event in Manila before spending the summer riding in Sydney. Now I just don't know what my plans are. Everything is totally up in the air.
'I don't even know whether I will be able to go and ride elsewhere. I know that I'm completely fit and able to do so and I will be looking at all the options open to me.' Johnston, yesterday stressed the medical advice also came as a shock to himself and the licensing committee.
'We were just waiting for the doctors' clearance and didn't think there would be any problem at all. We thought he was home and hosed,' he said.
'But our own doctors have been consulting with the best there is in England and this general advice of standing a jockey down for one year after a convulsion resulting from a fall, came up.' The British Jockey Club's chief medical officer, Dr Turner, is well respected not just in horse racing but throughout British sports medicine.
Wong Siu-tan must now look for another stable jockey, having enjoyed his best season for some years and built his numbers up towards a full compliment of 60 for next season.
His first reaction yesterday was to wait until March and to try to sign Munro again but Munro, himself, advised Wong to sign another rider for a year.
'It's a huge blow for Alan, for me and for my owners,' said Wong.
'Alan and I have a tremendous understanding and I was looking forward to next season like no other season before.' Munro was stood down for three months in 1990 after a bad fall at Redcar in England when he was also kicked in the head and suffered a convulsion.
He bounced straight back from that period on the sidelines to win the English and Irish Derbies and enter the most prolific period of his career which netted some 18 Group One victories.
A woman jockey has been booked to ride in the Epsom Derby next month for the first time in the 216-year history of the world's most famous Flat race.
Alex Greaves, 28, is set to partner Portuguese Lil, a 500-1 outsider trained by her husband, David Nicholls.
Greaves, a four-time champion lady jockey, hopes she will have the chance to add another page to the colourful history of a classic first run in 1780.
'I never dreamt of riding in the Derby and it would be lovely to have the opportunity,' she said yesterday.