Leslie and Paddy Young ran six horses on the last weekend of April. Four finished second over hurdles while the other two ran 1-2 in a training flat race.
“We’re not doing anything wrong here,” Leslie told her husband afterward. “Listen, five seconds is better than five thirds.”
And recovering from a traumatic head injury is better than not recovering from a traumatic head injury.
Three weeks after those horses ran well – but not quite well enough – the Youngs got their first hurdle win of the season when Mercoeur scored in the allowance race at Radnor May 20. One race later, Paddy was in a fight to survive a fall with Kings Apollo in the timber stakes. The five-time NSA champion fractured his skull, broke a bone in his neck and would soon battle pneumonia, a MRSA infection and a 104.7-degree fever at Paoli Hospital.
The horses – be it fate, divine intervention or luck – have hardly lost since. The Young stable won two more races at Radnor (the hurdle feature with Jamarjo and a handicap hurdle with Invocation) after Paddy went down and Leslie followed to the hospital and a whole lot of unknown. The next week, For Goodness Sake won the feature at Fair Hill.
“At Radnor, I was happy for the horses,” said Leslie. “We were going there thinking all of them could run well. Jamarjo, the day before, Paddy said if he doesn’t win he’ll be pretty tough and he was. It’s amazing to see them run so well.”
Like the horses, Paddy continues to bounce back. The five-time NSA champion was moved out of intensive care last week and was headed to Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital for the next step on a long road. He’s been able to sit in a chair, taken a few steps and communicates as best he can with a tube still in his throat. That’s fairly standard with head injuries and should come out soon, at which point Paddy will be able to speak. Paddy wears a neck brace and a helmet (the first one was more roller derby than jockey; the second one looks way more comfortable) for stability and protection.
His wife calls it all progress.
“He’s doing really well,” said Leslie. “The doctors seemed positive before. The infection was the only time they didn’t sound that way. I had gotten better after talking to the neurosurgeon. He was always very positive. That gave me the hope. Now they’re so pleased with everything. They’re banking on 100 percent recovery and I’m just going to keep thinking that. They’re like, ‘Hey listen, we work with this stuff all the time.’ ”
Paddy was unlucky when he fell and was hit in the head by a horse’s leg. He was also lucky not to be hurt worse. He was closing in on 200 career jump wins in the United States, a milestone reached by only nine people.
The Radnor win gave Young 198, but nobody’s really counting anything but blessings.
“It’s such a hard pill to swallow, it’s not easy, you feel helpless,” said Leslie. “He remembers certain things, but from what a lot of people tell me this part will be a blur.”
Jockey Willie McCarthy launched a Go Fund Me page to help offset some of the expenses the Youngs will face, and the outreach sent the balance to more than $133,000. Paddy has health insurance and will get assistance from insurance coverage maintained by the NSA on all jockeys, but it all helps the Youngs and their family (including 18-year-old Tom, 9-year-old Rory and 8-year-old Saoirse). Contributions (from Hall of Fame trainers, Boy Scout troops and everyone in between) have come in all sizes.
“It’s very humbling, and we’re very appreciative,” said Leslie. “Paddy, eventually, when he realizes what’s happened, I think will be truly touched. He’s not one to ask anyone for anything. To see how many people care . . . I don’t think he realized that many people would.”