Jockey George Baker glad to be ‘released into the wild’ after head injury in fall

Croak

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Authors: Rio Sports

George Baker, who sustained a serious head injury in a fall at St Moritz’s White Turf meeting on a snow-covered lake in February, said on Monday that he feels he is now being “released into the wild” as he continues his rehabilitation in the hope he could eventually return to race-riding.

Baker suffered bleeding in his brain after falling from Jamie Osborne’s Boomerang Bob in the closing stages of a race on 26 February. He spent eight days in a trauma unit in Switzerland before returning to Britain for further treatment and was discharged from hospital to continue his recovery at home in late April.

Speaking at an event in London to promote Saturday’s William Hill St Leger at Doncaster, a race he won last year aboard the 22-1 outsider Harbour Law, Baker said he had been on “a character-building journey” in the months after his fall.

“I’m just glad to be out and about and doing normal things again,” he said. “It’s like being released into the wild, almost. Coming up here on the train today, I could see it was hard for my wife to drop me off at the station and leave me to my own accord. But I’m getting there and doing more and more things: loads of therapy and pushing myself as far as I can really.”

Baker, who remembers nothing about his fall or his time in hospital in Switzerland, said the memory of his win in the world’s oldest Classic, which was the third Group One success of his career, spurs him on in his struggle to regain full fitness.

“Luckily I remember everything about it,” Baker said. “We went there hoping rather than confident and when Idaho [the favourite] fell that helped our cause but Harbour Law winning the Leger, it took a long time to sink in. It was an amazing thing to do and I’m very pleased I remember it so well.

“One of the first things I did when I got back from hospital, just through the door, I flicked on Sky+ and watched it back to remind me of the good times. It’s a good thing to aim for, getting back to that sort of level.”

Jockey George Baker glad to be ‘released into the wild’ after head injury in fall
Medics prepare to take George Baker to hospital by helicopter after his fall at St Moritz’s White Turf meeting. Photograph: Gian Ehrenzeller/EPA

Thirteen horses are still in the running for the St Leger after the five-day declarations on Monday, including two previous Group One winners in Aidan O’Brien’s Capri, who landed the Irish Derby at The Curragh in early July, and Stradivarius, who took the first renewal of the Goodwood Cup as a Group One event in August.

The narrow favourite at this stage, however, is Sir Michael Stoute’s Crystal Ocean, the impressive winner of the Gordon Stakes on the final day of Glorious Goodwood, at a top price of 7-2. Capri, one of six O’Brien-trained runners still engaged, is a 4-1 chance with Roger Varian’s Defoe, who took the Geoffrey Freer Stakes at Newbury in August, next in the list on 5-1. John Gosden’s two contenders, Stradivarius and Coronet, are 13-2 and 9-1 respectively and it is 12-1 bar.

At Perth, three riders received 10-day bans for failing to pull up after a three-mile handicap chase was declared void to allow an injured horse to receive treatment near the winning post.

Johnny Go, a faller on the first circuit, ran loose and then collapsed on the run‑in. Harriet Graham, Perth’s clerk of the course, took the decision to void the race. The field was flagged to stop on the final circuit but the race concluded with Red Giant first past the post ahead of Miss Joeking before the outcome was declared void.

Johnny Go was put down as a result of his injury and Sean Quinlan, Stephen Mulqueen and Derek Fox were all banned for continuing to race after the signal had been given to stop.

“The rules are clear that once the stop‑race flag is deployed, the jockeys must stop riding and the race is void,” Robin Mounsey, the British Horseracing Authority’s head of media, said on Monday. “The stop-race flag is used for safety reasons and jockeys are aware that they must stop riding immediately once they have seen the flag being waved, and that the stewards have no choice but to declare the race void.”

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