Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Franny Races for a New Line

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Franny Races for a New Line

Article excerpt

Byline: TONY SMURTHWAITE

A YEAR ago, Franny Norton was on a roll. Today he is short of winners and bored, but has a mission.

Last season at this time the minuscule Scouser was honoured at racing's equivalent of the Oscars - the Lester's - and was Britain's leading Flat jockey, staying that way until an early lead built on all-weather wins was eroded by the bigger names.

This winter has not been so productive, just a few wins so far.

Despite a singlemindedness attributed to all jockeys, Norton might just confess to having one eye off the ball in training at the moment.

He is running in next month's London Marathon to raise money for his close friend Paul Ingle, who was boxed close to death by Mbulelo Botile during an IBF championship fight in Sheffield last December.

The boredom comes with pounding the streets. As is his manner, Norton would probably joke that he couldn't get 26 miles on horseback, but on 22 April he will try it on foot.

Eight times a champion of the stable lads' boxing bouts, Norton proudly carried Ingle's IBF belt into the ring before the fight which left him needing surgery to remove a blood clot on the brain. The affect on the jockey was traumatic, hinted at in a tally of three wins from 59 rides throughout January.

"If anything, the marathon training has kept my tunnel vision intact," says Norton.

"You need to keep mentally and physically tuned, it keeps you off the beer.

"I had two months off then went to Barbados for their Gold Cup and the break has done me good.

For the first time in ages I'm delighted to jump in the car to go racing.

I feel as if my riding is better. I'm in no rush, there's seven months of the season left."

Certainly Norton, the apprentice find of the early 1990s, had been on a roll. It seemed to begin, oddly enough, when he packed up boxing in May 1998.

Light bantamweight Spencer Oliver was almost killed in the ring and despite being on the verge of international amateur honours, Norton hung up his gloves.

At the end of that year he had ridden 40 winners, his best tally since his apprenticeship. …

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