Goodbye Amateur

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Monday morning brought the brutal news that amateur jockey Lorna Brooke had died from a fall at Taunton. 

But for the grace of God go I…

A 36-year-old mainstay in the amateur ranks, Brooke drove the box, groomed the horse, rode the horse, cooled the horse out, drove the horse home and poulticed the horse, checked on all the other horses and got up the next day to do it again. The true amateur, for the love of the game. 

We play a competitive sport, always trying to win, always trying to beat each other and then one of us goes down, the brethren brought to its knees. The sport – or at least the winning and losing –– doesn’t seem as important. 

You think of all the close calls, the crazy falls, the slip ups on the turn in front of a full field, the long one that didn’t get there, the short one that came too late, the slide to the right instead of the left to somehow save your life. I, like all jump jockeys, had plenty of falls. How many? I rode 1,000 races, they say you fall one in every 10 rides, the math is hard to escape. Somehow, I survived and Lorna Brooke did not. The variables of a variable-filled game, the vagaries of luck, the swift, callous strike of mistake and misfortune, a hammer blow.

My friend George Baker wrote about Brooke in his Tuesday blog. 

I never met Lorna Brooke 

But it is clear from the tributes that she was much loved and respected as a rider. A true Corinthian, epitomising the amateur jockey’s ethos. Beyond brave. Doing it for the craic on a bunch of horses trained at home with her mother. I sense that Lorna would not have been interested in racing politics and the petty divisions that can be so frustrating. She was in it for the sport, for the fun, for the joy of bowling along in front at Ludlow on one of her own….

Amateur jockeys are an intrepid bunch. Careering around Point-to-Point courses. Their mounts not always the most reliable or trustworthy. But they are the beating heart of so much that is brilliant about this magical sport…

As we prepare for weeks and months of sober winning “celebrations” on the Flat from the big battalions, it is worth noting that this sport has a core of amateur enthusiasts who play the game hard, properly, and with the utmost respect for each other. In an age when we are battered with “Health and Safety” requirements and red tape, amateur jockeys provide a throwback to what many will think of as a better time. Weighing Rooms and changing facilities that are no more than flapping tents in muddy fields. The sheer joy of winning on a home bred Pointer. The sheer joy of getting around unscathed….

Lorna was clearly embedded in amateur racing. Much loved and respected. She will be hugely missed by very many, and all thoughts are with her family at this devastating time….

Her smile has leapt off the pages in recent days. A smile that told a thousand tales. That showed her passion for this sport. I bet that she was on the yard each and every day at very silly O’Clock. Living her dream…

Our sport needs the Lorna Brookes very badly. We admire their bravery. We thrive in their joy at being a small part of it…

If only all could embrace success and handle defeat with such dignity and grace.

Read George every day. 

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