Brian Toomey, the Jump Jockey who two years ago suffered an almost fatal fall at Perth Racecourse, will complete one of the greatest sporting comebacks of all time this Sunday when he partners the Philip Kirby-trained Kings Grey at Southwell Racecourse in his first race back since injury (4.20pm).
Toomey – who died for six seconds after the fall and was given only a 3% chance of survival by paramedics – has overcome the longest odds of his life to make a full recovery and return to the saddle. The Limerick-born jockey spent two weeks in a coma, 157 days in hospital and had a large part of his skull removed and a titanium plate fitted, before beginning his long road of recuperation, in which he completed physio and occupational therapy in order to regain his strength and balance.
Brian Toomey said ahead of his comeback: “The race on Sunday has been my focus for the past two years. I could’ve taken the career-ending insurance available to me, but all I wanted to do was be a jockey.
“It’s my passion, it’s an addiction and it’s been my dream since I was a boy to be a jockey – it’s a job and a life I love. I can’t begin to list the people I want to thank, but I want to go out on Sunday and put in a good performance for them and of course my family.”
In order to be re-issued his license, Brian had to meet the strict medical criteria for fitness to return to race riding and demonstrate his ability to control a horse safely.
However, given the severity of Brian’s injuries, further assessments were required in order for him to be passed fit including hearing and vision tests, physiotherapy assessments and appointments and reports from Consultants in Neuropsychology, Neurology and two Neurosurgeons. He also required references from licensed trainers and had to undergo a full medical assessment by the BHA Chief Medical Advisor Dr Jerry Hill. Following the assessments, and taking into account the opinions of specialists, Brian was passed as medically fit to ride.
Professor Phil Kane, Chief of Service for Neurosciences at South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust who oversaw much of Brian’s recovery, said: “Brian’s return to horse racing is absolutely incredible.
“Most of the praise has to go to Brian himself and his self-motivation to achieve this goal of getting back in the saddle and compete again after his horrendous fall and injury. To see and to have been part of Brian’s recovery has been extremely satisfying for me and I wish him well in the future.”
Dr Jerry Hill, Chief Medical Adviser for the BHA, said: “The safety of our competitors is paramount in British Horseracing and we have a duty, as far as is possible, to ensure any returning Jockey is fit to safely control his horse and that he and his family understands the risks that he or she may be taking in race riding.
“Brian has shown through his medical assessments and physical tests that he is fit to ride again.
“For the purposes of Brian’s application we treated him in the same manner that we would any other rider, in terms of that the bar was set at the same level we expect of all professional jockeys.
“No allowances were made for his injuries and the length of his absence from the sport, which makes all the more remarkable the scale of his recovery.
“The fact that Brian is still alive is a testament to the first class medical care which exists on British racecourses. It is very likely that the team of doctors at Perth, with their rapid and decisive response, saved Brian’s life.
“To now be returning to ride again in Britain two years on, and having met all of the demanding criteria required of him to do so, is a quite remarkable story and an illustration of his determination and bravery.”