HENRY Brooke recorded the biggest win of his comeback when Definitly Red led home a Yorkshire one-two in the 188Bet Rowland Meyrick Chase, Wetherby’s traditional Boxing Day highlight.
Nearly three months after a fall at Hexham left the Middleham rider fighting for his life in a coma, Malton trainer Brian Ellison was among the first to promise to use Brooke when he regained his fitness.
And while the trainer was as good as his word, the 26-year-old jockey did not expect to be riding a horse as classy as Definitly Red, who can expect to compete for some of the best three-mile prizes in the North on the basis of this heartwarming win cheered by a raucuous 10,000-plus Bank Holiday crowd only too glad to be out in the bracing cold.
Indeed, Brooke ventured that the horse, owned locally by Phil and Julie Martin, could be the classiest that he’s ridden since leaving Donald McCain’s yard after serving his apprenticeship to ply his trade in his native North as a freelance.
“It’s the first chance I’ve had to ride a really classy horse since leaving Donald’s,” the winning jockey told The Yorkshire Post.
“I’m still not very good at listening to instructions. I was told not to hit the front until the second last, but that went out of the window.
“He’s done it well.”
An incident-packed race, named after Wetherby’s former clerk of the course, saw Our Kaemper unseat Richie McLernon early on, with Seven Sky and the well-backed Welsh raider Henry Parry Morgan coming to grief on the second circuit.
Yet, as Danny Cook hit the front on Wakanda, Brooke was conscious not to let the Sue Smith runner build up a commanding lead and Definitly Red soon stamped his authority on the turn for home.
Four solid jumps secured the spoils from the gutsy Wakanda with RSA Chase hero Blaklion plugging on for third – Carl Llewellyn, assistant to trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies, said the favourite and top weight simply did not handle the glue-like ground.
Although Brooke was a memorable second in Aintree’s Becher Chase at the beginning of the month on Highland Lodge, he said there was nothing like a big race winner to demonstrate to the wider racing world that he’s recovered from the punctured lung and nine fractured ribs suffered at Hexham.
“I’m still getting fitter. Days like this make all the hard work worthwhile,” added the rider who partners Micky Hammond’s Just Cameron in Wetherby’s Castleford Chase today.
“I’ve put a lot of work in and I’m grateful for Brian, and the owners, for giving me the chance.”
The day began with rank outsider Moscanisi landing the mares’ novice hurdle from Same Circus in a photo-finish for trainer Rebecca Menzies and jockey Tony Kelly.
Running in the colours of 2012 Triumph Hurdle hero Countrywide Flame, the horse hails from the point-to-point yard of popular clerk of the course Anthea Morshead.
Meanwhile, Bankhall made a successful chasing debut in the novice handicap for Sheriff Hutton trainer Mark Walford and jockey Jamie Hamilton while there was further White Rose success courtesy of Phil Kirby’s Little Bruce success in the handicap hurdle under Adam Nicol.
Kirby, who trains near Catterick, said the strong pace suited his horse who is not the biggest in the world. Future plans will depend on the handicapper. “He doesn’t want to be carrying 12 stone round here,” added the trainer.
A fine leap at the last saw Attimo take Sedgefield’s handicap chase for Guiseley trainer Samantha England and her jockey husband Jonathan England.