ANDREW THORNTON enjoyed the perfect send-off to his riding career with a winner at Uttoxeter.

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

The 45-year-old announced on Monday he would hang up his riding boots following four rides at the Midlands track, with long-time supporter Seamus Mullins supplying three mounts while Caroline Bailey provided the fourth.

Out of luck on his first ride, Thornton made no mistake on the Mullins-trained Amirr in the Abacus Decorators "National Hunt" Maiden Hurdle, travelling well throughout and looking the likely winner with three to jump.

The partnership made no mistake from there, with the even-money favourite coming home with 10 lengths in hand of Blue N Yellow.

Thornton - who can count the Gold Cup, Welsh National, King George VI Chase and Hennessy Gold Cup among over 1,000 winning rides - was given a rapturous welcome on his return to the winner's enclosure and sprayed with champagne by his fellow jockeys.

He said: "It couldn't have worked out any better. It's a special day.

"The lads are all here, Dave Roberts (agent) is here and my parents are here, my little boy and Yvonne (wife).

"To be honest I didn't have a look round as I thought Jerry McGrath (Lyndsays Lad) could be on my tail not moving and if I looked round that could cost me the race.

"I just put my head down and waited until we crossed the winning line, as it is not over until you cross that winning post."