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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.

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.”

Copperless continues on the upgrade at Taunton

Copperless defied top-weight to highlight an Olly Murphy double at Taunton in the Ray Wonnacott 80 And Not Out Handicap Hurdle.

Considered by Murphy as one of his nicest prospects, the 15-8 favourite was ridden confidently by Champion Chase-winning jockey Aidan Coleman.

Given plenty of time to warm to his task after being anchored at the rear in the early stages, the six-year-old made his ground up very quickly rounding the home bend to assume command between the final two flights and score by a length from Chez Hans.

Olly Murphy predicts a bright future for Copperless
Olly Murphy predicts a bright future for Copperless (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“He’s a very nice horse and in a weak race I thought the only thing that might get him is lack of experience,” said Murphy.

“He has plenty of ability and will improve. He has to have good ground.”

Murphy was earlier smiling from ear to ear after Grandads Cottge provided him with a first winner for popular owner John Hales in the Taunton Branch RNLI Supporters Novices’ Hurdle.

The Harry Skelton-ridden winner engaged in a battle with Earth Lord and Time To Tinker up the final straight, with the former making a race of it but succumbing by a length to the 4-7 favourite.

Skelton – who later doubled up with the Jeremy Scott-trained Tactical Manoeuvre, matching the two winners for Brian Hughes at Wetherby – reported he felt Grandads Cottage will want three miles in time.

Murphy said: “I’m thrilled to have sent out my first winner in the famous Hales colours.

“This is a lovely horse, and dad (bloodstock agent Aiden Murphy) bought horses like Al Ferof and Nolan for John.

“I think he’s a horse for next year and is a lovely chaser in the making.”

Grandads Cottage clears the last en route to victory
Grandads Cottage clears the last en route to victory (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Camprond appealed as one of the nicest horses on view and duly opened his account when wearing down market rival Defining Battle for Philip Hobbs and Richard Johnson in the Game And Wildlife Conservation Trust Maiden Hurdle.

The 2-1 shot made a couple of mistakes, but Johnson felt there was a genuine excuse for the errors, ones that failed to impair his momentum as he pulled a length and a half clear of his rival.

Hobbs’ wife Sarah said: “Richard said the horse was blinded at the first, which wasn’t his fault, and then two out he got blinded again when waiting to make his challenge.

“The important thing was that he is settling a bit better. He’s a lovely horse.”

Young O’Leary (9-2 joint-favourite) prevailed in a tight finish for the Invest Southwest Novices’ Handicap Chase from Tierra Verde.

David Prichard was on board for winning trainer Nigel Hawke, who said: “He’s got the job done, but was a bit short at the last.

“The ground was plenty quick enough as he’s a great big stamp of horse by Scorpion, but he could do no more than win.

“Although it’s late in the season we should all being well get a bit of rain so that I can run him again.”

Sumkindofking (left) on the way to victory
Sumkindofking (left) on the way to victory (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Joint top-weight Sumkindofking ultimately ran out a wide-margin winner of the Newton King Estate Agents Handicap Chase, but until approaching the final fence veteran Regal Flow gave an immaculate jumping display which earned him almost as much glory as the 11-1 winner.

Trained by Tom George, Sumkindofking benefitted from the 10lb claim of conditional Thomas Doggrell and looks a horse that can win again on the better ground, having been out of sorts on winter conditions until now.

Frost and Rockadenn strike in Taunton feature

Paul Nicholls dominated the finish to the feature race at Taunton, with Bryony Frost and Rockadenn just edging out Harry Cobden on Pic D’Orhy.

Pic D’Orhy looked sure to register his first win since last season’s Betfair Hurdle was cruising to the front at the second-last in the Dorset & Somerset Air Ambulance Handicap Hurdle.

However, he found a little less than Cobden was expecting, and Frost was at her tenacious best on the Million In Mind-owned winner, with Rockadenn (17-2) prevailing in a photo by a head.

Rockadenn (left) still had ground to make up at the final flight
Rockadenn (left) still had ground to make up at the final flight (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“I didn’t know what to expect because he ran out up at Musselburgh,” said Nicholls.

“The other lad was having his first run since a wind op and maybe I ran him a bit quick.

“He (Pic D’Orhy) has a couple of entries at the Festival in the Coral Cup and the County Hurdle, and he could also go for the Scottish Champion Hurdle before we turn his attention to fences in the autumn.”

Cobden did not leave empty handed, though, as he had earlier provided Colin Tizzard with a welcome winner thanks to The Widdow Maker in the Aspen Waite Complete Business Growth Service Maiden Hurdle.

Harry Cobden had an easy time on The Widdow Maker
Harry Cobden had an easy time on The Widdow Maker (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Always handy, the pair came clear up the run-in to score in a common canter.

Cobden said: “He was quite keen on his previous run which is why Joe (Tizzard) decided to put a hood on him. To be fair he hardly picked up the bridle and it was a good bit of placing.”

Olly Murphy’s Allavina looks a mare of some potential given how she cruised to victory in the British EBF Mares’ National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle.

Aidan Coleman kept apart from Lilly Pedlar all the way up the straight and the 13-8 favourite was not hard pressed to win by six and a half lengths.

Allavina looks like a mare with a bright future for Olly Murphy
Allavina looks like a mare with a bright future for Olly Murphy (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Murphy said: “She’s a mare who took a while to get it all together, but she’s hacked up today.

“Aidan was very pleased with her and there’s a possibility that she’ll run in the mares’ final at Newbury.”

The winning Welsh National duo of Evan Williams and Adam Wedge teamed up to score with Ring The Moon (13-8 favourite) in the Kate Austin Misses Her Racing Handicap Chase.

Mitchell Bastyon registered another winner when Laura Young’s Auenwirbel caused a 33-1 surprise in the Taunton Round Table Selling Handicap Hurdle, while Putdecashonthedash (9-1) won the Geoffrey Bosley ‘Tally Ho’ Handicap Chase for Tom Bellamy and Kieran Burke.

Taunton off as freeze takes toll

Taunton’s meeting was abandoned after an early-morning inspection on Tuesday – leaving a second successive blank day in the British jump racing calendar.

As the freeze takes hold, Taunton’s card was called off before 7am.

A Tweet on Taunton’s official account read: “Racing today has been abandoned. Temps overnight down to – 3C. Course frozen with no prospect/forecast of temps rising above 0C until around 1pm with a high of +1C”

Market Rasen’s meeting was abandoned after an inspection the previous afternoon – but there will be a jumpers’ bumper card at Kempton on Tuesday, after that course passed a morning inspection called because of forecast overnight snow.

Southwell’s all-weather evening Flat fixture is also set to go ahead.

Doncaster’s meeting on Thursday will, however, not take place after the course failed inspection on Tuesday morning – with snow on the track.

Wednesday’s National Hunt card at Ludlow was also abandoned following an inspection on Tuesday morning.

Thursday’s fixture at Ffos Las is also in some doubt, needing to pass an 8.30am precautionary inspection on Wednesday.

A tweet from the course said: “In view of updated weather forecast, we will hold a precautionary inspection at 8.30am tomorrow to assess impact of overnight temps ahead of racing on Thursday. Forecast -2 overnight & early morning, up to -4/-5 inland. We hope our coastal location will help with milder airflow.”

Jumps courses on weather watch as cold snap bites

Jumps tracks are bracing themselves for another week of inspections and abandonments due to the continuing cold snap.

Sunday’s card at Musselburgh survived a morning inspection, but fixtures remain under threat in the coming week.

A poor weather forecast has prompted Plumpton to call an inspection at 8am on Monday to determined prospects for that day’s card.

Light snow is forecast with temperatures down to -2C overnight and not expected to rise above freezing.

Frost sheets were deployed on landings, take offs and vulnerable areas on Friday.

The prospect of a sharp frost on Sunday night has forced Carlisle to hold a precautionary inspection at 8am on Monday ahead of the same day’s meeting.

There is currently no problem with waterlogging, but there is a chance of snow on Monday.

Taunton are to inspect at noon on Monday to assess prospects for Tuesday’s card.

The course was free from frost on Sunday morning, but it is set to get colder overnight with temperatures forecast to drop to -2C on Sunday and -4C on Monday night. Daytime temperatures will struggle to get above freezing.

An precautionary inspection is also set for Market Rasen at noon on Monday ahead of Tuesday’s fixture due to the potential risk of snow and frost.

Wednesday’s meeting at Fontwell has been abandoned following an inspection on Sunday afternoon.

The course was found to be waterlogged in places and unraceable.

An inspection is set for Huntingdon at 4pm on Monday ahead of Thursday’s programme as the course is waterlogged.

The Alconbury brook has burst its banks and areas of the home straight are flooded.

Friday’s jumps card at Kempton is also in doubt due to the lake bend being waterlogged.

Officials are expecting up to 25 millimetres from a mixture of rain, sleet and snow. Minimum temperatures on Wednesday and Thursday could go down to -5C, with a maximum temperature of +2C.

Haydock goes ahead

Haydock’s Peter Marsh meeting will go ahead after the course passed an early-morning inspection.

Saturday’s seven-race card was subject to a scheduled 8am check because of the threat of frost, having already survived the ravages of the midweek Storm Christoph.

However, the inspection was brought forward to 7am, and a Tweet from Haydock’s official account confirmed shortly after 7.15am that the course was fit for racing.

Taunton’s eight-race card was given the go-ahead before a scheduled 8am inspection there too, as overnight conditions relented sufficiently.

Haydock will stage four Grade Two events, including the feature Peter Marsh Handicap Chase – while dual champion hurdler Buveur D’Air makes his long-awaited return from injury against just two rivals in the The New One Unibet Hurdle.

An update from the track read: “Today’s precautionary inspection has passed! The Going is Heavy.”

Temperatures had been forecast to fall below freezing overnight, but they did not do so.

There remains a “slight chance of sleety snow flurries” at the Merseyside venue – but Haydock’s card, which had already passed a Thursday inspection after being waterlogged in places earlier in the week, will get under way at 12.55.

The ground at Taunton is soft, heavy in places – as it is at Ascot, where the Grade One Matchbook Betting Exchange Clarence House is the highlight of a seven-race card.

Navan, the sole Saturday card scheduled in Ireland, will not however take place – after the course failed an 8am inspection, with the track “frozen and unfit for racing”.

Talking takes Listed honours at Taunton

Talking About You landed her second Listed success when making most of the running in the Byerley Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at Taunton.

The Sean Curran-trained filly had earned her first black type on her previous start at Aintree and backed that up with a game display on her ninth run over the smaller obstacles since August.

As in her recent races, Talking About You was to the fore from the outset, sharing the pace-making duties with Perfect Myth, the 13-8 favourite.

The pair were still vying for the lead until after the third-last flight left where Talking About You (2-1) started to take a clear advantage.

Pushed out by Harry Bannister, the daughter of Sixties Icon stuck on gamely to score by two and a quarter lengths from Will Victory.

Perfect Myth was five and a half lengths away in third place.

Curran said: “We’ve found the key to her. She’s a bit tricky before the race, but she gets on with it then.

“She keeps surprising me, which is handy. She’s won two Listed races now – brilliant.

“She handled the ground better than the rest and she’ll jump a lot better on better ground.”

Curran will now have to work out where to go with Talking About You in the future.

“It’s a shame Aintree’s Festival is a long way away. I’d opt for there more than Cheltenham. None of those races are easy at Cheltenham or Aintree,” said the Swindon handler.

“I don’t think we have a whole load of options. I’m not sure what to do.

“I’ll sit down and see what we can do.

“The owner (Ian McGready) has a few quid in the kitty and he’s a good mate. He’s been a great supporter of mine when I was race riding, so he’s always 100 per cent behind me.”

Thorne loses Taunton appeal

Conditional jockey Alex Thorne has lost an appeal against his 21-day ban from the Taunton stewards for failing to weigh in after winning on Twin Star.

Thorne’s case caused controversy this month – when because of Covid-19 protocols in place at the track, the jockeys had to take a different route to the changing rooms, whereas in the past they would have had to walk directly past the scales.

Unfortunately for Thorne, who carried out a winning TV interview, he went straight into the changing rooms and was disqualified and placed last as a result.

Thorne was represented at the independent disciplinary panel hearing by Rory Mac Neice – who highlighted the fact that since the resumption of racing and the new track layouts, nine jockeys had failed to weigh in compared to just three in 2019.

The 21-day penalty for failing to weigh in is fixed but can be changed if there are “exceptional circumstances”.

However, the appeal was dismissed by the panel who did not think Thorne’s case met those criteria.

Drama at Taunton as Twin Star disqualified after rider fails to weigh in

Trainer Noel Williams has plenty of sympathy for Alexander Thorne after the conditional jockey failed to weigh in having finishing first past the post at Taunton on Twin Star, causing him to be disqualified.

Due to Covid-19 protocols jockeys at the Somerset track are currently using a temporary changing room, while the scales are in their usual spot.

Thorne went directly into the changing room after conducting a winning interview rather than weighing in first, and the stewards were left with no other option but to disqualify Twin Star and announce Robinshill the winner. Thorne was also suspended for 21 days.

The race was the first ever from the course shown by the ITV cameras.

“Obviously it is an unfortunate situation,” said Williams.

“I think there has to be a little bit of help for these guys. I know they are professionals and are responsible themselves for weighing in, but there are a lot of things going through their heads when they come in from a ride, good and bad.

“Particularly when they win, as happened today, they can be taken to one side for an interview and they have a lot of things going on.

“I’m not sure what it’s like at every track, but at Taunton to get back to the changing room before you’d basically trip over the scales getting back to the weighing room, but obviously it is different now with the Covid restrictions.

“Alex isn’t the first jockey that’s ever done it and he certainly won’t be the last. I have plenty of sympathy for him – he’ll be absolutely gutted. We’ve all lost out on what was a career-best effort (from Twin Star), but he’ll be really gutted.”

The trainer went on: “I think they need a bit of help, someone on the door just checking they’ve weighed in, it takes very little for that to happen as no one wants this to happen.

“Everyone loses in this situation – apart from the connections of the original second – and even if I was the connections getting promoted to first it’s a hollow victory.

“I would rather this was looked into, especially with the layout of courses at the moment. Jockeys shouldn’t have to have a sat nav to get back to their changing room.”