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Cheltenham race will honour Lorna Brooke

Cheltenham will honour Lorna Brooke at Friday’s hunter chase meeting, with the penultimate race on the card to be run as the Lorna Brooke Open Hunters’ Chase.

Brooke died on April 19 as a result of injuries sustained in a fall at Taunton earlier in the month.

Philip Rowley will saddle Optimised in the Lorna Brooke Open Hunters’ Chase. The nine-year-old was runner-up to Southfield Theatre when the race was last run in 2019.

Rowley said: “Lorna was a dear friend and rode for me on many occasions.

“I will always be thankful to her for providing me with my first winner under Rules, which was The General Lee in the Chase Meredith Memorial Trophy at Ludlow (in March 2011).

“Lorna rode The General Lee again at Cheltenham at this fixture, and they were unlucky not to win as our horse led over the last before trying to go out for another circuit. Lorna managed to get the horse going again, and in the end we only went down by three-quarters of a length.

“It is just all so, so sad. I would like to thank Cheltenham Racecourse for naming tomorrow’s race in Lorna’s honour – it’s a very touching tribute.”

Ian Renton, regional managing director of The Jockey Club, added: “Tomorrow’s Race Night is the one fixture of the year at Cheltenham purely for amateur riders, and it only seemed right to honour Lorna in this way.

“It is sure to be a very emotional occasion as Lorna was such a popular figure, and everyone at the racecourse will be united in her memory.”

Harry Skelton builds on title lead with Ludlow double

Harry Skelton moved into a commanding 10-winner lead in the jockeys’ title race with just three days of the season left after completing a double at Ludlow.

Skelton now leads Brian Hughes by 150 to 140, after the reigning champion drew a blank at Perth.

Tinnahalla gave Skelton a flying start when landing the odds in the opening Racing TV Novices’ Hurdle. The 1-6 favourite, trained by Olly Murphy, made all the running to beat The Wrekin by three and a quarter lengths.

“He did it nicely, he was a bit tight three out where he lost his back end, but then away he went,” said Skelton.

Tinnahalla on his way to initiating a double for Harry Skelton in the Join RacingTV Novices’ Hurdle at Ludlow
Tinnahalla on his way to initiating a double for Harry Skelton in the Join RacingTV Novices’ Hurdle at Ludlow (David Davies/PA)

“Keen horses like him prefer the jumping because it gives them a chance to have a breather.”

Skelton took time to pay tribute to amateur Lorna Brooke, who died on Sunday following a fall at Taunton earlier this month.

He said: “Lorna was a bubbly person who always had a smile on her face and she was a grafter. She would light anyone’s day up.

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“It’s devastating that she’s gone. She adored the horses and did it because she loved it. She was a true amateur.”

There was a minute’s applause in Brooke’s memory before racing so it was fitting that Garde Ville, who she partnered to victory in a point-to-point at Sandon at the beginning of the month, should win the Eddie Mapo Memorial Open Hunters’ Chase.

Immy Robinson took the ride on the 11-year-old, owned and trained by Patricia Rigby and the 9-4 shot rose to the occasion to land a poignant success.

“There were two of us riding that horse today. When he came into the home straight and we had the line of fences in front of us, I thought I’m not losing this race because he was jumping for fun,” Robinson told Racing TV.

“I just knew Lorna would be going longer and longer and she would not let those boys pass us, so I had that in my head. I didn’t look that pretty, but I was going to do it for Lorna.

Garde Ville on his way to an emotional success
Garde Ville on his way to an emotional success (David Davies/PA)

“He’s a phenomenal horse and Lorna should have been riding him today and they were a match made in heaven.

“It was an absolute privilege to be on him today. He’s a real favourite in the point-to-point scene round this area. He’s so consistent and gives his all every time.”

Hatcher (5-6 favourite), trained by Skelton’s brother Dan, gave the jockey a quick double when disposing of Solar Impulse by two and a half lengths in the Watch On Racing TV New Handicap Chase.

The winning trainer said: “He’s a remarkable horse who Pat (Betts, owner) bought as a foal. He was beaten on the all-weather on his first start but has now won 12, including five over fences.

“He doesn’t show signs of losing his pace and will keep going through the summer.”

On his brother’s title hopes, the Alcester handler said: “Until Brian needs more winners than he has rides, it isn’t officially over, but with Harry now 10 ahead it will be very hard for him.”

Another Stowaway  on his way to landing the Shukers Landrover Defender Handicap Chase at Ludlow
Another Stowaway on his way to landing the Shukers Landrover Defender Handicap Chase at Ludlow (David Davies/PA)

Another Stowaway (12-1) made most of the running to take the Shukers Landrover Defender Handicap Chase.

The Tom George-trained nine-year-old kept on gamely for Ciaran Gethings to see off Tinkers Hill Tommy and Bbold by two and a half lengths and one and a quarter lengths.

George said: “He won really nicely and I’m very happy with him. It’s taken a long time for him to slip down the handicap, but it’s nice to get him back in winning ways.

“All credit to his owners for being so patient with him. They’ve given the horse every chance. He’s had a few wind operations so I’m delighted for them.”

‘Lorna was at the forefront of the Corinthians’ – David Maxwell

David Maxwell has paid tribute to fellow amateur jockey Lorna Brooke, who died on Sunday.

Brooke, 37, who rode principally for her mother, Lady Susan Brooke, was one of many who took part in races simply for the love of her sport.

Like Maxwell and other amateurs, it costs them money to do what they do – and Maxwell said Brooke epitomised the spirit among jockeys in the non-paid ranks.

“Amateurs do it for love – the love of the game and more importantly the love of the horse,” he said.

“There’s such passion in the sport. At the amateur level nobody has to do it. Lorna was at the forefront of the Corinthians.

“She rode a lot for her mother and it was a really lovely family story, which is what so much of National Hunt racing is about.

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“It is often said, but at times like this you get a real sense of how tight-knit the racing community, but especially National Hunt, really is.”

Brooke was airlifted to hospital following a fall at Taunton on April 8, and Maxwell was fulsome in his praise of the care jockeys receive on track.

“The one thing I will say about racing in this country is the medical care the jockeys receive, it is second to none. This is the first fatality on a professional UK racecourse for about 15 years. That is testament to the amazing care in place,” he said.

“The BHA (British Horseracing Authority) don’t get enough credit for this, it really is the gold-standard internationally which makes events such as this fortunately rather rare, but because of that it makes it probably more upsetting on the rare occasions that it does happen.

“This is tragic and shocking, it really is.”

The Professional Jockeys Association said in statement: “This is a devastating reminder of the dangers our brave men and women face and our thoughts and prayers are with Lorna’s family, friends and colleagues.

“Lorna was an incredibly hard working, popular member of the weighing room and whilst her licence was as an amateur jockey, she was a professional in every other sense. We have lost one of our own and she will be sorely missed.”

Current champion jockey Brian Hughes was another to pay tribute, on a day when jockeys sported black armbands at all meetings in Britain.

He told Sky Sports Racing: “It’s terrible. That is the harsh reality of this sport, but you always hope and pray it’s never going to happen to anyone.

Champion jockey Brian Hughes:
Champion jockey Brian Hughes: “You always hope and pray it’s never going to happen to anyone.” (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“When people get a fall, the first thing you do is hope they get up OK. The competitive edge goes out of the window.

“It’s terribly sad for Lorna and her family and friends. I must admit I didn’t know the extent of her injuries, but to read this morning that she’d lost her life is very sad.

“She’s lost her life doing something she loved. It’s a small community (in racing) and everyone is feeling it today.

“I wish her family and friends condolences and hope they can look back at her life with a smile, rather than the way it’s ended.”

Grand National-winning trainer Donald McCain wrote on Twitter: “Everyone here at Bankhouse was devastated to hear the news that Lorna Brooke had lost her fight this morning. Her family and friends are in our thoughts. RIP Lorna.”

Cheltenham Festival-winning rider Bridget Andrews added: “As sad as we are all feeling today, Lorna would want us to smile and carry on doing the sport we all love! We must never take for granted going home each night! Sleep tight Lorna x.”

Amateur rider Lorna Brooke dies following Taunton fall

Amateur rider Lorna Brooke died in hospital on Sunday following a fall at Taunton earlier this month, the Injured Jockeys Fund has announced.

Brooke was riding Orchestrated for her mother, Lady Susan Brooke, when falling at the third fence in the Pontispool Equine Sports Centre Handicap Chase on April 8.

Racing was delayed by more than hour as she was treated on track, before being transferred into an air ambulance.

A statement issued by the IJF on Friday said Brooke was in a “critical, but stable condition” in intensive care at Southmead Hospital in Bristol, and had been placed in an induced coma due to “various complications” during the week.

However, a further statement released on Monday confirmed she had died.

The statement read: “It is with deep sadness that we have to share the tragic news that Lorna Brooke passed away yesterday.

“Her family thank everyone for their kindness in the last few weeks, particularly the staff at Southmead Hospital who were so professional.

“They will be having a private funeral and will hold a celebration of Lorna’s life once Covid restrictions allow.”

Sir Anthony McCoy was among the leading racing figures to pay tribute, writing on Twitter: “Heartbreakingly sad news. Thoughts and prayers with her family. RIP Lorna.”

Brooke, 37, who rode as a 7lb-claiming amateur, enjoyed a high-profile success when winning the inaugural Ladies Handicap Chase at Fairyhouse on Moonlone Lane for Paul Stafford in 2015.

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A 25-1 chance, Moonlone Lane had gone winless in a 26-race career up to that point, but Brooke guided him home in front, with Katie Walsh, Lizzie Kelly, Rachael Blackmore and Nina Carberry all trailing in her wake. Moonlone Lane then won next time out at Musselburgh under Brooke.

“It’s tragic news, it really is shocking,” Stafford told Sky Sports Racing.

“When she got the fall people were very concerned, we were too and we were saying prayers, but unfortunately this has happened.

“She was a lovely person, obviously she rode that winner for us and we kept in contact over the years through social media, congratulating each other on social media when each of us had winners. It’s shocking it’s happened.”

Thinking back to the day at Fairyhouse, Stafford said: “He’d never won a race until she rode him that day, she took the bull by the horns, went on and it paid off – she gave him a fantastic ride.

“I’d never met Lorna before that, she was more or less allocated the ride, but I knew she was a capable rider. It worked out and she rode him several times again, winning at Musselburgh.

“She was over the moon that day at Fairyhouse, and her family. I met her mother at Bangor one day and she’s lovely too.

“I send my condolences to her family, my heart goes out to them.”

Lorna Brooke going to post on a runner in 2016
Lorna Brooke going to post on a runner in 2016 (Simon Cooper/PA)

Brooke partnered 17 winners in Britain and Ireland since the 2001/02 season, riding largely for her mother, but also teaming up with Shropshire-based John Groucott on a regular basis.

One of Brooke’s victories came aboard the Evan Williams-trained Dashing Doc in a lady amateurs’ handicap hurdle at Newton Abbot in 2011 – a race in which Cheltenham Festival and Grand National heroine Blackmore finished third.

Williams said: “The best way I can describe Lorna is an enthusiast. Whether it was a point-to-point in Herefordshire or riding under rules with the girls in the changing room, she was always smiling and always working.

“She was a bubbly personality and typical of so many people involved in the industry – unsung heroes who are part of the weighing room and one of us, if that makes sense. It’s what makes racing so very special.

“You’d see her and her mum Sue in Ffos Las or Taunton, they’d be doing all the work themselves. You’d often have to give her a leg-up or give her a hand to lead one up – that was their enjoyment and that was their life.

“For her to pay the ultimate price is so terribly devastating, but it was her passion.”

Reflecting on Brooke’s success board Dashing Doc 10 years ago, Williams added: “It’s strange really because the man who owned Dashing Doc was a farmer who lived next door to me called Ralph Thomas and we lost him this week.

“He was a smashing fellow and I can remember him in the paddock actually, chatting with Lorna about how they were going to bring about the downfall of this girl they’d heard about from Ireland – Rachael Blackmore!

“It’s very sobering to think that Lorna beat Rachael, who went on to such great things.

“I suppose it’s a great epitaph for what she’s done in the sport.”

The Racecourse Association said in a statement: “The Racecourse Association is deeply saddened by the tragic news of Lorna Brooke’s death as a result of injuries sustained following a fall whilst race-riding at Taunton Racecourse on Thursday, April 8.

“Our thoughts and condolences are with Lorna’s family and friends during this time.

“The RCA is in contact with Taunton Racecourse and relevant authorities, offering our support as required.

“All racecourses racing today will observe a period of silence and display black armbands as a mark of respect to Lorna’s memory.”

The British Horseracing Authority released a statement in which its chief executive Julie Harrington said: “Everybody at the BHA is devastated by this news. Lorna was a much-loved member of our sport, in which she and her family are steeped.

“Lorna demonstrated many of the qualities that make British racing so special. She was a proud competitor and somebody who was driven by an abundance of love not only for the sport but for the horses she competed with.

“My thoughts, along with everybody else who loves racing, are with Lorna’s family, friends and colleagues at this dreadful time.”

Lorna Brooke in ‘critical, but stable’ condition following Taunton fall

Amateur jockey Lorna Brooke is reported to be in a “critical, but stable” condition in hospital in Bristol following her fall at Taunton last week.

Brooke was riding Orchestrated for her mother, Lady Susan Brooke, when falling at the third fence in the Pontispool Equine Sports Centre Handicap Chase.

Racing was delayed by more than an hour as she was treated on track, before being transferred into an air ambulance.

A statement issued by the Injured Jockeys Fund on Friday read: “Amateur jockey Lorna Brooke is currently in intensive care at Southmeads Hospital, Bristol.

“Due to various complications this week, she has been placed in an induced coma. She is critical, but stable.

“Her family thank everyone for their good wishes but request privacy at this difficult time.”

Lorna Brooke in ‘serious but stable’ condition

Amateur jockey Lorna Brooke is in a “serious but stable” condition following her fall at Taunton.

Brooke was riding Orchestrated for her mother, Lady Susan Brooke, when falling at the third fence in Thursday’s Pontispool Equine Sports Centre Handicap Chase.

Racing was delayed by more than an hour as she was treated on track before being transferred into an air ambulance.

A statement from the Injured Jockeys Fund on Friday morning said: “Amateur jockey, Lorna Brooke, is in Southmeads Hospital in Bristol after suffering a fall at Taunton Racecourse yesterday.

“She is in intensive care in a serious but stable condition, and is conscious. She is undergoing observations and tests for a suspected spinal injury.

“Her parents, Sir Alistair and Lady Susan Brooke kindly ask for privacy at this difficult time.”