BRIAN TOOMEY, whose life was left hanging by a thread after suffering major head injuries in a fall at Perth last summer, has returned to the saddle in Norton.
Toomey, who has made a remarkable recovery, has started riding-out for Spring Cottage trainer Brian Ellison in the hope of convincing the British Horseracing Authority’s licensing committee that he is fit enough to resume his career as a jump jockey.
“I wasn’t allowed to get back on a horse until twelve months after the accident,” explained Toomey. “But that twelve months is over now and I started riding out again about three weeks ago. The first week was fairly hard, but it’s grand now and I’m feeling good. I want to say a huge thank-you to Brian Ellison, who has helped me so much, and to (owner) Brian Dunn, who sponsored me when I was race-riding, for his support.”
Toomey sustained a life-threatening head injury last July when crashing out on handicap hurdler Solway Dandy at the third-last flight. He was in an induced coma for two weeks at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee, underwent an operation to remove part of his skull to relieve pressure on his swollen brain and was in such a grave situation that his family and friends, who were never far from his bedside, were warned by doctors to expect the worst. Amazingly, Toomey pulled through those darkest of days and was transferred to James Cook Hospital in Middlesborough to continue his recovery.
In total, he was hospitalized for 14 weeks. Since his discharge, he has spent time at Oaksey House, the Injured Jockeys’ Fund Rehabilitation Centre in Lambourn, has undergone occupational therapy and has concentrated his efforts on getting fit again to resume the one thing he covets more than any other.
“I want to get back to race-riding again,” he says. “Horses and racing are all I know. I want to prove I’m fine to come back. Nobody with an injury like mine has ever tried to ride in races again – I’m the first – and I’ll do whatever tests, and whatever it takes, to get back. “
Asked whether he feels confident that he would able to withstand a fall, Toomey said, “I’ve already had one! And I was fine. There’s no problem that way.”
It’s more than 13 months since the racing world prayed in unison for the life of Brian Toomey. He’s come a long way since. And the most important part of his journey is still to come. He intends to re-apply for his jockeys’ licence next month.
• IT may be a little while since Fashion Icon last ran in a race, but the former Ryedale-based sprinter is plainly far from forgotten by her owners, Trendy Ladies.
A 10-strong group of her former owners recently paid a special visit to catch up on Fashion Icon – in Hungary, where she now resides at stud.
“We flew to Budapest and travelled on from there,” said Penny Avison, one of the squad. “She looked very well and has got a foal by Haafdh. It was a really good trip and it was great to see her again.”
Fashion Icon, who was trained by David O’Meara, won four races and was sold at the December Sales in 2013. Needless to say, she was the apple of the eye of the Trendy Ladies’. And she still is.
• SILVANUS beat stablemate Adam’s Ale in a photo-finish in a thrilling renewal of the David Chapman Memorial Handicap at Ripon last week - a result which should have left Paul Midgley, trainer of both horses, thrilled to bits. He did, however, have mixed emotions.
The sprint handicap is named in memory of the former North Yorkshire trainer of such as Soba, Chaplins Club, Glencroft and Quito from his Stillington base, now occupied by his granddaughter, Ruth Carr.
Adam’s Ale, runner-up in the contest for the second successive year, is owned by Muriel Hills, David Chapman’s sister, and also the former owner of Soba.
“It’s a race I’ve always wanted to win,” said Midgley. “I should be very happy at the outcome, but I felt for Mrs Hills. It would have been lovely if she could have won David’s race. Adam’s Ale ran a blinder, but Silvanus is a hard horse to beat.”
Mrs Hills was genuinely sporting in defeat. “He ran very well,” she said. “We’ll just have to try again next year.”
• IT'S Ripon’s big day of the year on Saturday with the Great St Wilfrid Handicap, sponsored by William Hill, as its showpiece.
This historic sprint annually attracts a strong Ryedale presence and this year is no exception. Watch out for That's The Spirit and Out Do and Eastern Impact and Tatlisu, pairs respectively trained by David O'Meara and Richard Fahey, recent winners of this race, Paul Midgeley's Another Wise Kid and the Tim Easterby-trained See The Sun.
• BRAE HILL, who has been such a stalwart in the Richard Fahey stable, has been retired.
The eight -year-old picked up an injury at Ascot on his latest start, bringing to a close his racing career which yielded seven wins, a whole host of placed efforts and earnings of more than £250,000.
Brae Hill had a tremendous record at Doncaster, where he won the Lincoln Handicap under Tony Hamilton in 2012 and was twice placed in the famous race. Furthermore, earlier this year, having failed to make the cut in the Lincoln, he won the Spring Mile consolation race under David Nolan.
His other notable victory was achieved under Barry McHugh in the 2011 Bunbury Cup at Newmarket, when he ploughed a lone furrow to record a typically game performance.
“He gave me some big days,” said owner Dr Marwan Koukash. “He deserves a good retirement.”