SQUASH has little in common with horse racing – apart from accelerating jockey Andrew Tinkler’s recovery from injury.
Having broken his right hand in several places on November 24, the Malton-born rider was passed fit yesterday to return to the saddle.
The reason for his swift recovery in time for the lucrative Boxing Day meetings? Repeatedly squeezing a squash ball in his hand from the moment the plaster was removed on Monday, even when he went on four-mile runs and Christmas shopping.
“Fair play to my friend ‘Choc’ Thornton, who’s out injured himself, for suggesting it,” said relieved Tinkler yesterday.
“I think I’ll be keeping the squash ball with me, certainly for the next few days when I go running, or am lying in the bath or sauna to lose a bit of weight. It’s made a world of difference to the movement and flexion. The weighing room is a close place and we do anything to help each other.”
Typically Tinkler – stable jockey to the in-form Nicky Henderson yard – wasted little time after X-rays in Swindon revealed that his hand had healed sufficiently, and BHA medical advisor Dr Michael Turner had raised no objections when the images had been transmitted to his London office.
With his riding gear already packed in the back of his car – “just in case”, said the jockey – he dashed from hospital to Henderson’s Lambourn stables to ride the JP McManus-owned Aigle D’Or during third lot.
This was not a gradual return for the 26-year-old; this is a nippy chaser who Tinkler rode to an eyecatching third place in this summer’s Galway Plate and who is entered in Leopardstown’s prestigious Paddy Power Chase on Tuesday.
From there, it was a 95-mile drive to Ludlow to be passed fit by the racecourse doctors, part of the strict checks in place to protect the welfare of jockeys.
Tinkler then drove 63 miles back to his Cotswolds base, conveniently located for every major racecourse and training yard, to resume his fitness regime.
As well as his faithful squash ball, he ran at least four miles a day up the gallops at Jackdaws Castle where Jonjo O’Neill trains. Bemused onlookers included 2010 Grand National winner Don’t Push It who spends his day grazing in a field with some Jacob sheep.
This lay-off has been tough mentally – the Yorkshireman believes he missed at least 12 winners, including Sprinter Sacre’s brilliant novice chase debut at Doncaster.
His Boxing Day plans are fluid, though he could ride Henderson’s Master of the Hall in Wetherby’s Rowland Meyrick Chase. In the meantime, he will continue his squash ball exercises, his running – and riding out at Henderson’s stables each morning.
“I won’t be over-indulging but, after a couple of days, the weight should be okay,” he added. “All I want now is a winner – or two.”