MIRACLE jump jockey Brian Toomey’s final ride ended in heartbreak when his mount City Dreams was brought down and suffered a fatal injury.
It was a dispiriting end to the riding career of the 27-year-old who cheated death following a fall three summers ago before he began the most unlikely sporting comeback of all.
Even though Toomey, who was based in North Yorkshire, returned to the saddle last July on a wave of emotion and euphoria, he soon struggled to gain sufficient rides – never mind winners – and announced last week that his final competitive race would be at Stratford aboard City Dreams for Middleham trainer Phil Kirby.
Toomey masked his disappointment by saying that he drew great satisfaction from returning to competitive action after spending 157 nights in hospital and having part of his skull cut away to ease the swelling on his brain.
He intends to move to his native Ireland to begin the next phase of his life and attempt to become a trainer.
“I’m lucky to be here, people thought I could never get back. I had to prove it to myself, and having a goal helped my recovery. From the day I got back walking and talking I was determined to come back,” said Toomey after walking away from his Stratford fall unscathed.
“I’d like thank the support I’ve had, but I can understand why I didn’t get the rides - there’s so much worry.
“I’m going to move to Ireland and start again. I want to stay in racing, I’m addicted to it.
“In time I want to train, but my main aim at the moment is get associated with a big yard and learn as much as I can.
“At 27 I still have time on my side, but I hope I start to have better luck.”
However Bob Champion, the North Yorkshire rider who cheated cancer to win the 1981 Grand National on Aldaniti, remains in awe of Toomey’s achievement.
“I admire him greatly for what he has done,” he said. “He’s tried his best, but unfortunately it didn’t work out, which is a bit sad for him.
“But he’s alive and he’s got out of the game in one piece - and that’s the main thing.
“It’s been an amazing story, but hopefully he can go on and do something else in racing.
“When all said and done, it doesn’t really matter about riding winners and all those things. The fact he is still with us is the real heart-warming thing.”
Announcing his decision last week, Toomey said he had to come to terms with the fact that he had only ridden 49 winners prior to his Perth fall.
“It’s a big weight lifted off my shoulders. At some point I needed to accept it wasn’t going to happen for me as a jockey,” he said. “I’ve had barely any rides, so it wasn’t really a hard decision to retire. I just wanted the chance to prove I was still capable.”