Conditional jockey Ian Popham must be looking forward to the New Year with a mixture of hope and trepidation. Hope – because last week he took an important step on the road to recovery; trepidation – because both last year and this year he has had a nasty fall resulting in a broken pelvis.
September 2011 marked the beginning of a lengthy spell on the sidelines when he took a fall whilst riding out for Dorset trainer Caroline Keevil. He broke his pelvis in six places and needed major surgery to repair it, along with complications that arose with his kidneys and bladder. At Christmas a year ago he was on crutches and still a long way from a return to the saddle.
At the time of the injury Popham had just taken up a full time post as stable jockey to Martin Keighley at his Moreton-in-Marsh stable. He said then, "A chance like this doesn't come along very often so I feel very lucky and I'm determined to work hard and make the best of it."
Popham did work hard and had ridden a couple of winners since his comeback in July after 10 months out. He went to Plumpton in October for a single ride in the final race, the Andy Stewart Charitable Foundation Supports Moorcroft Maiden Open NH Flat Race. On the way down to the start his horse Oyster Hill jinked, leaving Popham on the ground and damaged. One jockey, two falls, a broken pelvis on each occasion, and neither injury occurring during a race. How unfortunate can you be?
This time Popham had fractured the ball and socket joint as well as suffering three further breaks, but fortunately did not have the same internal problems as a year ago. Keighley, who has kept Popham’s job open for him throughout his injury woes didn’t perhaps quite put it the best way after the fall when he said, "He's very stabilised at the moment and it looks like they might not operate which is obviously very good news. He deserves a bit of a break."
It was, though, clear from the start that Popham would not be out of action for so long a time this time round, and Christmas brought him one of the best gifts he could ask for. His recovery has been much quicker, and on Christmas Eve he was at Keighley’s stable to ride out for the first time since his accident.
He’s still a little way off race fitness, so we won’t see Ian Popham back on the racetrack for a few weeks. Let’s hope the recovery continues smoothly and doesn’t take too long.