Mick Fitzgerald admits the realisation that his glittering career in the saddle is over is hard to take.

The 38-year-old jockey, who lives at Childrey, near Wantage, suffered serious neck and knee ligament damage after a fall from L'Ami in the John Smith's Grand National in April.

He subsequently underwent two bouts of surgery to realign three vertebrae and two discs.

Fitzgerald, who won the Grand National and Gold Cup, had previously broken his neck in a fall at Market Rasen in 2005 and has now been advised not to return to race-riding.

"It is hard to swallow when you finally realise it is the end," he said.

"I suppose in many ways I'm lucky really. I smashed four vertebrae in my neck from the C6 up to C3, they were fairly badly damaged and I was lucky first of all to go to Royal Liverpool University Hospital and have a couple of discs removed and have the whole thing stabilised, because two of them had penetrated my spinal cord, and I was a very lucky boy really.

"There was light at the end of the tunnel, especially when they got me back stable. I didn't want to walk away not on my own terms.

"Unfortunately in this situation I have got to listen to the experts."

Fitzgerald had initially intended to bow out at the end of the 2006/2007 season to take up a job in racing management.

However, he shelved those plans following a successful campaign with retained trainer Nicky Henderson, and he admits the extra year has lessened the blow of his enforced departure from the weighing room.

"It is a lot easier for me now having announced last season was going to be my last, I feel like I have had another chance," he said.

"I had a very good season and I like to think I was riding at top of my game when I did bow out.

Fitzgerald retires with well over 1,000 winners to his credit and is one of an elite band to win both the Grand National (on Rough Quest in 1996) and the Cheltenham Gold Cup (on See More Business in 1999).

"I've been so lucky to be associated with a lot of good horses," he added.

"Rough Quest was one of the first of the big horses as I won the Grand National on him in 1996 and the William Hill Chase at the Cheltenham Festival on him in 1995.

"Growing up as a kid the dream was always to win a race at the Festival and that dream was realised in 1994 when I won the Cathcart on a horse of Nicky's called Raymylette.

"He is always going to have a very special place in my heart, then there is See More Business who won the King George and the Gold Cup for me.

"I have been so lucky as I have lived the dream and very few people get to live out their dreams."

Fitzgerald, who has already done a lot of work for At The Races, is now considering furthering his career in the media sphere.

"The media work is something I feel comfortable doing and it's something I enjoy doing and I always want to be involved in racing," he added.

"I'm getting married in a couple of weeks, I have two lovely young sons and that's enough to keep me occupied at the moment."