By Graham Clark
Cheltenham Festival-winning jockey Jerry McGrath has admitted he faces a race against time to make it to this year’s meeting after breaking his hip and shoulder in a fall last week.
The 30 year old, who won the 2019 Ultima Chase aboard Beware The Bear and the 2012 Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle on Une Artiste, sustained the injuries after his mount, Vegas Blue, clipped heels with another runner and came down during a Bumper at Lingfield last Monday.
Although fellow riders Jordan Nailor and Alexander Thorne escaped serious injury after their respective mounts, Perfect Percy and Lord Howard, were brought down in the incident, McGrath was taken to the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton for further assessment.
After undergoing scans, X-rays revealed that McGrath had dislocated and suffered multiple fractures in his left shoulder and left hip, both of which have subsequently required having metal plates put in.
McGrath told thejockeyclub.co.uk: “It was horrific. I was still conscious when I hit the ground but it was the worst pain I’ve ever experienced and I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone, even my worst enemy.
“Sometimes when you are on the ground after a fall you come round and you realise you have had a fall and you check every limb by shaking an arm and a leg but after this I couldn’t move anything.
“I was taken to hospital in the ambulance. I remember the ride and the blue lights were on and I was getting a bit worried as to how serious it was. I went in for a CT scan and I knew what was going on. My hip was totally sideways.
“I went into theatre and I had the shoulder put back in, then the hip put back into place and they did that on the Monday as soon as they could. A few hours later I had the plates put in during an eight hour operation.
“With the current situation in hospitals I was lucky that both the hip surgeon and shoulder surgeon were both on call at the same time as if not I could have been waiting for between seven and 10 days to have things done."
McGrath is not setting a target date for his return to the saddle but hopes to have a clearer picture in six weeks’ time. He added: “I’ve only got one arm and one leg I can use at the moment so I won’t be gracing the dancefloor anytime soon! I’m not going to be weight bearing on the left side for at least six weeks.
“After that I’m going to need physio and a matter of time. You usually try and rush back from an injury but I feel very lucky it wasn’t worse. I will give this as long as it needs.
"I will play it by ear but the first six weeks will be very important. It was a big fright and it makes you realise life is precious. I’ve broken vertebrae in my back, and done my sternum and collarbone and fractured my arm badly in the Paddy Power at Cheltenham before - but this was definitely the worst pain I’ve experienced.”
Among those first to get in touch with McGrath following the incident was Kempton Park’s clerk of the course Barney Clifford.
McGrath added: “Barney Clifford got in touch as he watched it on television and he said the first thing he thought of was sitting over Freddy Tylicki when he had his injury that day. He just got flashbacks and said he hoped it wasn’t too serious. It brings things into reality a bit.
“When you think you have had a bad day at the races it makes you realise when things like this happen that a lot worse things can happen.”
Since the incident McGrath has been inundated with messages of support from those within the sport, and has thanked the medical team on duty at Lingfield for their swift response.
He added: “The one massive thing was having a familiar voice around me at the time. Dr Rizwan Ghani, who does a lot of the tracks near London, and Dr Lucy Free were amazing. Having them around me was huge and I can’t thank them enough for what they did to help me out.
“My partner Charlotte (Whitfield) has been incredible as well as she is trying to sort everything out and getting things ready for when I hopefully go home next week.
“I’ve been overwhelmed by the responses from people. Henrietta Knight got in touch and said she is charging the batteries on her mobility scooter for me. The circumstances are tough but I will be back. It’s just a case of taking it a step at a time.”Bring home the Jumps with a free month of Racing TV! Watch full coverage of the best British and Irish meetings. Start your free month at racingtv.com/freemonth!
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