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Ex-champion jockey up for grand race despite kidney op
NOT long after donating a kidney to save a stranger, former champion jockey Richard Pitman is preparing to race in a Grand National event again.
The BBC pundit, 69, from Letcombe Regis near Wantage, donated the organ in a three-hour operation at Oxford’s Churchill Hospital in January.
But he said he felt no ill-effects and was ready to compete against 11 other former top jockeys in the John Smith’s Legends Race at Aintree tomorrow.
He said: “I recovered from it really quickly. There have been absolutely no side effects whatsoever.
“The point is it doesn’t matter if you are fit and healthy, you only need one kidney.
“It is a marvellous thing. I am so pleased and chuffed I did it.”
Mr Pitman was inspired to donate a kidney after a close friend had a transplant.
After four months of tests the organ was transplanted successfully into an anonymous recipient. Mr Pitman said February’s story about his operation in the Oxford Mail had prompted many people to contact him promising to become organ donors.
Mr Pitman’s 15-year-long career as a jockey saw him ride 470 winning horses. However, he never won the Grand National – most famously narrowly losing out to top horse Red Rum in 1973.
The television pundit is retiring this weekend as the BBC gives up its horse racing coverage.
Mr Pitman received the go-ahead for tomorrow’s 1pm flat race at a medical last week.
He will ride a horse called Miller’s Reef, bred at stables in nearby Lambourn.
But he said he had no chance of winning, adding: “I’m here for the beer. There are going to be people half my age in the race.”
Kidney donations from living patients in the UK have risen from 15 in 2009/10 to 35 in 2011/12.
NHS Blood and Transport spokesman Chris Gorman said: “Richard’s case has certainly helped raise awareness.”