how tough are jockeys

One of the things that we learned this week, well, we didn’t exactly, it just reinforced what we already knew, jockeys are as hard as nails. First up, jockey Ben Curtis dislocated his shoulder when riding Henry Spiller’s Crack Regiment to victory in the 1m handicap at Newcastle on Friday night. All was going well on the 6/1 into 5/1 chance inside the final furlong. The combination had just cruised smoothy past the leader and 9/4 favourite Tarroob. Ben Curtis went for his whip in order ask his mount to go on and win the race when his shoulder popped out of its socket. The heroic jockey kept riding and balanced, and continued pushing out his mount win by neck from the persistent favourite. 

Ben told At The Races that ‘I just went to give him a reminder and my shoulder popped out, which made it a little bit uncomfortable in the last 100 yards. Luckily, we still won.’ He continued ‘Your arm just goes limp, and it just feels like a dead weight. There’s not much you can do. I was just trying to keep him straight with one arm. It was painful.’ 

It appears that his fellow jockeys were a little squeamish in the face of such an injury, he concluded ‘I spent the next five minutes trying to persuade someone to put it back in but no-one would take the risk and I was shipped off to hospital.’

In hindsight it was probably better for a speedier recovery that he didn’t let a nervous jockey have a pop at relocating the offending shoulder. Ben is hoping to be back in the saddle race riding this week. 

It wasn’t the first time it has happened though, back in 2018 amateur jockey dislocated her shoulder and carried on riding Pacha Du Polder to win in the Foxhunter Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in 2018, and that was with two fences to jump. She said at the time, ‘I was pushing and praying that no one was going to beat me because I couldn’t hit him anymore with my right hand. I had to keep pushing and screaming at him and got there’. Bearing in mind she had to jump two hefty fences with her injury before negotiating the formidable Cheltenham hill, that victory was even harder than nails.

Meanwhile on Monday. Jockey Micheál Nolan suffered a very nasty fall on the Seamus Mullins trained Ardbruce in the Visit Southwell Handicap Chase at Southwell. His injuries were initially treated on the racecourse before he was moved to hospital in Nottingham. Just before midnight that evening the jockey posted a photo of his battered self, laid in his hospital bed. In the text with it he told his followers that he’d like to say thank you everyone for all their kind messages, adding there had been so many it was taking him a while to reply to them all. He went on to say he’d fractured his T5 and T6 vertebrae and ‘broke a few ribs’. He concluded that he was having surgery on Tuesday and was then hoping to be on the road to recovery.

Isn’t it amazing just casually adding in ‘broke a few ribs’. I broke a rib a couple of times and moaned for weeks, it’s painful and you can’t sleep properly for weeks. Like I said at the start, jockeys are as hard as nails, a lot of them.

While I am sure all racing fans have nothing but admiration for jockeys who are the human half of the gladiators in our sport, there is one record that nobody wants to see emulated. That is that of jockey Frank Hayes. 98 years ago on June 4, 1923 he won a race at Belmont Park on Long Island on a horse named Sweet Kiss. It was the 22-year-old jockey’s first winner and a ride that he’d trained and dieted hard to make the weight on before recording a famous victory. Ultimately it was really an infamous victory, as the jockey was dead as he passed the post.

jockey Frank Hayes

It transpired he suffered a heart attack at the business end of the race. At the time, it was explained as being caused by combination of things. Severe wasting to do the weight and the excitement at the realisation he was going to actually win the race on the 20/1 chance. Maybe with that in mind, and as he was still on board his mount when the combination passed the post, the stewards announced the result official without the need for the jockey to weigh in. Good on them giving the tragic pilot that one last mark of respect, and of course well done poor old Frank Hayes, RIP. 

Simon Nott

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