Veteran steeplechase jockey Brian Crowley announced his retirement from race riding at the close of the 2012 season due to neck injuries.
“My neck isn’t in pieces, but the doctor wasn’t that pleased with it,” said Crowley. “It’s more of a better safe than sorry situation. If I rode in races next year and never had a fall, all would be fine. But I have to look at the bigger picture.”
The 31-year-old Irish native hung up his cap after three seasons in the United States, but that was after 168 wins in Ireland and England. He came over in 2010 to work for Jonathan Sheppard.
“I’ve had three fantastic seasons in America. I wouldn’t have changed them for anything else,” Crowley said. “But from Saratoga [N.Y.] to Colonial Cup [S.C.], things just didn’t go right for me.”
Crowley had a fall at the final fence of the Turf Writers Grade I hurdle stakes in Saratoga with Divine Fortune in August and another fall in a race at Belmont (N.Y.) in September. However, he had a successful spring. In May, he won the Grade 1 Iroquois Steeplechase (Tenn.) with Sheppard-trained Arcadius. Sadly, Arcadius died minutes after winning the race.
“I was very lucky in England in my early teens. I rode a lot of winners,” said Crowley. “As I keep saying, I don’t want to sound sappy, but Arcadius winning at Nashville was definitely one of my most memorable races to date.
“He was a horse that was always plagued with injuries. He had a heart bigger than a lion. Going into to the race, I was very confident. I knew that he was 100 percent—he had no issues stopping him. And to do it like he did, it was fantastic,” he continued. “Obviously, Arcadius was a highlight, but I have other horses that have meant a lot to me.”
His U.S. career ended with 37 wins in 175 starts. His horses won a total of more than $1.2 million. This season, his 13 wins put him third in races won to jockeys Ross Geraghty and Darren Nagle. Crowley plans to stay in the U.S., and he has pursued the idea of working at a breeding farm.
“I’ve met a lot of great people here. It’s a fascinating country. I’d like to thank everyone along the way that has made this so nice for me,” he said.
Looking ahead to the 2013 season, the National Steeplechase Association will be two jockeys short. Fellow steeplechase jockey Matt McCarron also announced his retirement from racing after a big win in the Colonial Cup Grade 1 hurdle stakes this November with Demonstrative.