JUMP jockey Henry Brooke has been given the all-clear to resume race riding less than two months after a hideous fall saw him put in a medically-induced coma with a collapsed lung and nine fractured ribs.
The 26-year-old is due to return to the saddle at Catterick tomorrow before Middleham-based Brooke tackles Aintree’s world famous Grand National fences on Saturday when he will partner Jimmy Moffatt’s Highland Lodge in the Becher Chase.
Brooke recorded the biggest – and most significant – win of his burgeoning career when partnering Highland Lodge to victory in the National trial, and the prospect of riding the chaser gave his recovery added motivation at Jack Berry House, the Injured Jockeys’ Fund rehabilitation centre in Malton.
However, he spoke of his relief after his lungs were given a clean bill of health by hospital consultants in Newcastle where he spent three days in intensive care after being kicked by a pursuing horse following an innocuous-looking fall at Hexham on October 8.
“I’m very pleased, it’s good,” Brooke told The Yorkshire Post. “It’s been a long two months, but it’s one of those things. I’ve come back as quickly as I could in as safe a way as possible.”
The former champion conditional has been riding out in Middleham where his mother Julia trains. He also travelled over the Lake District to ride Highland Lodge on the gallops.
“He was class and Jimmy’s worked his magic again. We just need a clear round,” said the rider.
Brooke is quick to pay tribute to the staff at Jack Berry House for providing one-to-one recovery and rehab care. “They’re class. Unbelievable. I wouldn’t manage without them,” he said.
His letter of thanks to Great North Air Ambulance, praising the helicopter crew for their treatment on the Hexham turf before he was airlifted to hospital, has gone viral on the internet.
“I have no doubt whatsoever that the combined actions of the medical personnel on duty saved my life, and for that I (and my family) will be eternally grateful,” he said.
“As a jockey, I love what I do and I take it for granted that I return home at the end of a day’s work, as do my colleagues. It takes something like this to fully appreciate the support network that allows us to be as safe as possible whilst doing our job.”
Brooke tweeted the letter with the message: “Beyond me how this is a charity!!”
With more than 200 winners to his name, Brooke will be hoping to re-establish himself quickly as one of the North’s leading riders – he admits it has been tough watching his mounts being ridden to victory by weighing room rivals like North Yorkshire’s Brian Hughes, who has ridden 30 winners this November.
Front-running Cole Harden is set to make his eagerly-anticipated novice chase debut at Wetherby on Saturday.
Trained by Warren Greatrex and ridden by Gavin Sheehan, it won the 2014 West Yorkshire Hurdle at the track en route to World Hurdle glory at the Cheltenham Festival.
Connections believe now is the right time to switch to larger obstacles and Greatrex is hoping for a confidence-boosting run over a two-mile and three-furlong trip, which will be shorter than ideal.
“The last two years, he’s been running in Grade Two and Grade Ones all the time,” said Greatrex.
“A novice chase should be easier. I was trying to look for an easier race, but there’s not that many.
“This is the first available contest. He’s won round Wetherby before and he likes the track. We’ll know a lot more after Saturday – there are not many 160-rated hurdlers who go chasing.”