Padge Whelan announces retirement

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"whelan.jpg"Padge Whelan, presently fifth in the jockey standings, has announcedhis retirement. The 30-year-old suffered a concussion after a fall fromLair at Fair Hill May 23. Citing at least 16 concussions, Whelandecided to retire and plans to return to Ireland in the next few months.

 

Whelan emigrated from Britain to ride first call for Tom Voss last spring. He tied for second in the standings last year, despite breaking his ankle in the spring. He picked up a key Saratoga score aboard Dynaski, the Temple Gwathmey with Planets Aligned and two late-season stakes scores aboard Guelph.

“I’m disappointed, gutted, to have it end this way, but such is life,” Whelan said. “It wasn’t an actual decision by a neurologist, but basically I’ve had 16 concussions, been knocked out 12 times and my head is absolutely thumping. Even if they said I could go on, the writing’s on the wall and it’s time to move on.”

Whelan and his wife, Candice, have a young daughter and are expecting their second child. They will return to southeast Ireland and plan to start a small stable on a 12-acre parcel they purchased years ago. Whelan is considering a breaking, training operation and possibly a foxhunting venture.

“I’ll do what I know, that’s horses,” Whelan said. “Coming here has certainly been a positive experience, I was surprised about the quality of the sport here, I don’t think American jump racing gets the recognition it deserves around the world. I really enjoyed the experience, it’s hard to walk away from the Tom Voss string of horses, I have a lot of admiration for him as a trainer.”

Whelan won his first career race aboard Superior Malt at Down Royal in 1999 and won his first U.S. race aboard Gigger at Stoneybrook in April, 2008. This year, Whelan won six races including the Marcellus Frost aboard Planets Aligned.

“It’s a hard pill to swallow, but you have to get over it,” Whelan said. “I thought I had a lot more racing left in me and I felt like I was just getting a feel for things over here, but at the end of the day, I’ve had an enjoyable time here and a great career. Racing owes me nothing.”