Talking Horses: BHA stands by injury return protocols after Cook admission

Chris Cook
·5-min read
<span>Photograph: racingfotos/Shutterstock</span>
Photograph: racingfotos/Shutterstock

Racing’s rulers have stood by the existing system for examining a jockey’s fitness to ride, following the revelation that Danny Cook has been riding with impaired vision for the past week. Cook stood himself down after a fall on Definitly Red at Newcastle on Saturday, saying his sight had not recovered from severe facial injuries including a fractured eye-socket and broken nose he suffered in a mid-October fall when a horse appeared to kick him. He also had 50 stitches in his facial wounds.

“I’ve not been riding to my full capability, so I need to get it sorted,” he said. He said his ability to judge distance was affected and that may have been a factor in the three falls he and his mounts have suffered in 16 rides since his comeback.

Cook said the impairment was much less noticeable when he was in an upright position and he continues to drive. For that reason, he had not brought the problem to the attention of medical examiners when his fitness to return to action was assessed.

“They were more worried about the fractures and the protection for the eyeball. With the eyesight, it was more my own judgment,” he said. “When I try to ride in a jockey position, it’s just a complete blur. It’s when I’m crouched over and trying to look up with my head tilted back, that’s when it’s worst.”

The Grand National-winning jockey Robbie Power has described a similar problem, the result of a kick to the head he suffered in 2016. “It’s only a problem when you’re on a horse, looking out of the top of your eyeball,” Power said the following year, having found a way to cope by using corrective goggles.

The British Horseracing Authority said it could not discuss a specific case for reasons of confidentiality, but stressed the vigour of its processes. “There are established protocols in place for jockeys returning to competition from injury where consultants, physiotherapists and other clinicians assess structure (eg fracture healing) and function (eg range of movement/strength),” a statement said.

“It isn’t always possible to fully replicate the conditions of competitive race-riding away from the racecourse in a gym or clinic setting, even using an equicizer or when riding out. The process of returning is graduated and feedback from riders as they progress through those stages is very important, and we recognise that some issues do not become fully apparent until racing has recommenced.

“We’re always open to feedback from those we are assisting to help ensure our protocols in this area are as functionally relevant and sports specific as they can be.”

Cook still hopes his condition can improve with time or treatment and is to see a specialist this week. “There are a few things that need to go on, anyway. There’s a bone sticking out where I had the fracture in the first place that needs filing down. I thought, when I finished racing in the summer, I could have done it then. Now that I’m struggling to see, I’ll have to get everything sorted while I can.

“Where my eyebrow bone’s been pushed back into my head, there’s a corner bit near my eyeball, I’ve got a pointy bit sticking out there. It’s not pretty ...”

Tuesday’s best bets

Unusually, I’m more interested by the all-weather action than the jump racing, with the obstacle races unattractive for a variety of reasons. So to Wolverhampton, where Inn The Bull (5.00) may come good at the second attempt for Alastair Ralph.

Alan King couldn’t make a hurdler out of him but he won three times from seven tries on the all-weather for the Wiltshire trainer and ran well on his debut for Ralph at this track last month after starting at 100-1. He’s 15-2 this time, with the extra quarter-mile to help.

At Newcastle, there has been predictable support for the fantastically well-bred Darlectable You, a sister to Too Darn Hot and others, making her debut at 2.40pm. She will be fascinating to watch rather than bet on and the same could be said of Mabre an hour later, he having caught the stewards’ attention at Wolverhampton 10 days ago.

Laxton Ladd (4.15) has attracted support into 2-1 for his handicap debut, with Richard Kingscote riding for the first time after the grey was a bit unlucky last time. Scarboroughdebut (4.45) also finished well last time and is 5-4 to get it right over this longer trip.

Southwell
12.30 Whatsdastory 1.00 Shanacoole Prince 1.30 Without A Doubt 2.00 Pencreek 2.32 Poppa Poutine 3.02 Barbados Buck’s 3.32 Cut And Run Lingfield
12.20 Taylors Three Rock 12.50 Graces Order 1.20 Tis Fantastic
1.50 Le Fou Royal 2.23 Darlyn 2.53 Finnegan’s Garden 3.23 Ruacana
Newcastle
2.10 Ravenscar 2.40 Darlectable You 3.10 Fireworks 3.40 Mabre 4.15 Laxton Ladd 4.45 Scarboroughdebut (nb) 5.15 I Am The Secret
Wolverhampton
4.00 Griggy 4.30 Elzaam’s Dream 5.00 Inn The Bull (nap) 5.30 Ventura Flame 6.00 Rathbride Prince 6.30 Golden Force 7.00 Regal Eagle
7.30 Recall It All 8.00 Mr Marvlos

Kingscote also gets the leg-up on I Am The Secret (5.15) in the closer and Jane Chapple-Hyam’s striking looker may be able to make good on the promise he showed on his debut in June. This is his second run back from a break and 12-1 is not bad as he drops in class.