WHEN trainer Jimmy Moffatt promised Yorkshire jump jockey Henry Brooke that he would keep the Betfred Becher Chase ride on Highland Lodge, he did not expect to honour the commitment.
The 26-year-old Middleham rider had just emerged from a coma after sustaining a collapsed lung, nine fractured ribs, chipped shoulder and internal bleeding in a fall at Hexham eight weeks ago today.
Yet Brooke’s recovery has dumbfounded medical experts at Jack Berry House, the Injured Jockeys Fund rehab centre in Malton, and he resumed competitive action at Catterick on Wednesday ahead of today’s contest over Aintree’s Grand National obstacles. If horse and rider repeat last year’s Becher triumph, it will complete one of jump racing’s more remarkable comebacks. It will be also one of the most poignant – Highland Lodge was led up in 2015 by owner Simon Wilson’s teenage son Patric who succumbed to cancer earlier this year.
“I look at the photograph now of Patric leading up the horse and it is heartbreaking,” Cartmel-based Moffatt told The Yorkshire Post.
“It makes you realise that all you’re doing is galloping horses around a field and there are more important things.
“It’s the same with Henry. I spoke to him while he was still in hospital. The first thing he told me was that he would ride Highland Lodge in the Becher.
“I told him that even if it was first race back, I would rather have him, than anyone else, because he gets on so well with the horse.”
With 5lb more to carry last year, Moffatt hopes Highland Lodge will run sufficiently well to make the cut for next year’s National after narrowly missing this year’s renewal. He’ll also be happy to get the horse home. Last year, Moffatt only just made it before the Lyth Valley suffered the worst floods in living memory.
Unlike 2012, the only salvation was that the trainer’s gallops were not washed away thanks to some advice on better drainage from his former boss Harvey Smith. “You could say it was two miracles in 24 hours,” he added.