Kinsella keen to make up for lost time after injury lay-off

PHIL Kinsella has more reason than most to hope that today's frost-threatened Catterick fixture passes an early morning inspection.

For, if it does, it will end nearly nine months of injury torment for the 28-year-old Northallerton-born rider as he embarks upon his comeback and tries to re-establish a career badly curtailed by a fractured neck.

Though each of his intended three rides do not appear, at face value, to have winning chances, Kinsella is just grateful to be riding again after many months pondering when he would return to the saddle.

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His lay-off was the culmination of three separate falls, in just over two-and-a-half weeks last April, which epitomised the courage of jump jockeys – and the risks associated with their sport.

Though he suffered neck pains after his first mishap, a thuddering fall at Kelso, hospital scans did not detect any fracture and Kinsella, typically, continued to ride.

No rides means no riding fees – and, therefore, no money to pay the bills. Only when a jockey is signed off can personal insurance kick in.

Two falls later and a fractured vertebrae was diagnosed, an injury which saw Kinsella forced to wear a neck collar until the injury stabilised.

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Only now has he been given the all clear by racing's medical staff to resume riding.

"Fingers crossed, Catterick will be on," Kinsella told the Yorkshire Post.

"I'm not sure I'll see the funny side if, after all this time, the meeting is called off.

"You feel fine, but know you can't ride. And then you see horses win that you should have been on and, while delighted for the connections, it nags away at you."

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Kinsella's misfortune has provided winning opportunities for others, most notably up-and-coming Yorkshire rider James Halliday.

His lay-off has also coincided with a change of approach at Malcolm Jefferson's Malton yard where Kinsella was stable jockey prior to his falls.

Now the trainer's intention is to use the best jockey available, starting with tomorrow's Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock where in-form Dougie Costello, based in Malton, will take the ride on the progressive, and well-regarded King Fontaine.

Owned by Trevor Hemmings, who is seeking a change of luck after Peveril's fatal last fence fall last weekend, the eight-year-old has won on his last four starts, beating the likes of Welsh National favourite Maktu and most recently Dance Island in November at Haydock.

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Though well-fancied, Jefferson fears the handicapper now has the beating of his staying chaser – a potential Grand National horse of the future.

"The handicapper has been very harsh. It was fine first time when he put him up 5lb, but it was 15lb next time – 20lb for two wins is harsh," says Jefferson. "He has to keep improving, that's the trouble."

If King Fontaine does win, however, it will be bitter-sweet for Kinsella. He'll be personally delighted for connections – but he will rue the fact that he was in the saddle for four of the horse's six career wins to date.

After riding out for the likes of Chris Grant, Alan Swinbank, Harry Hogarth and Keith Reveley, the jockey recognises that his priority is to re-establish his name.

That means making the most of every opportunity and, just as crucially, staying injury-free. On this basis, he needs a lucky break rather than the cruel injury as he looks to make up for lost time.