Paral­ysed jockey’s hope

➤ Jockey paral­ysed from waist down af­ter fall in French chase ➤ Spinal cord be­ing left in­tact gives hope of even­tual re­cov­ery

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By Mar­cus Army­tage

Bri­tish jump jockey Ja­cob Pritchard Webb, who was paral­ysed from the waist down in a fall at Au­teuil in France a fort­night ago, is hope­ful that he might be able to walk again. “There are lots of cases where peo­ple with sim­i­lar in­juries have got back walk­ing,” he said. “It is pos­si­ble I will make a full re­cov­ery.”

A Bri­tish jump jockey based in France is re­main­ing pos­i­tive in a Paris hospital de­spite be­ing paral­ysed from the waist down in a fall at Au­teuil a fort­night ago.

Ja­cob Pritchard Webb, whose ca­reer was just start­ing to get go­ing, has been in the Ge­orges Pom­pi­dou Euro­pean Hospital, not far from the race­course, since a fall at France’s equiv­a­lent of Chel­tenham.

In the fall, which heav­ily im­pacted on his up­per body, he dis­lo­cated his C7 ver­te­bra, broke his T4 and T6, dam­aged his lungs, broke four ribs and his ster­num.

He has un­der­gone two op­er­a­tions; one to insert a plate into his neck and an­other to insert two metal rods to sta­bilise his back from his T2 to T8 ver­te­brae. How­ever, though he has no feel­ing be­low his ribs, he is tak­ing heart from the fact that scans have shown his spinal cord re­mains in­tact.

Pritchard Webb, 23, who had rid­den two win­ners since lock­down ended in France, joined Em­manuel Clayeux, the trainer who also bred two-time Gold Cup win­ner Al Boum Photo, in the Au­vergne in south-cen­tral France last Oc­to­ber.

He rode three win­ners last year and had matched that in this in­ter­rupted sea­son be­fore his ill-fated out­ing on Ga­lent des Boulats.

“The horse had run over fences twice be­fore and it was my fourth ride at Au­teuil, my first over fences there, when he got the oxer [a fence with rails] all wrong, went a stride, buck­led and I got fired over his head into the ground,” he said.

“I felt some­thing go in my neck when it hit the ground and lost the feel­ing of my legs mid-roll. I think the bro­ken ribs were a kick from an­other horse.

“The doc­tors are nei­ther op­ti­mistic nor pes­simistic – they’re re­al­is­tic,” he said. “We don’t know how hard a knock my spinal cord took and it will take time, rest and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion. I am hop­ing to get trans­ferred to a spe­cial­ist spinal hospital in Paris in the next cou­ple of weeks, but noth­ing has been ver­i­fied.”

He added: “There are lots of cases where peo­ple with sim­i­lar in­juries have got back walk­ing. My fam­ily is stay­ing highly pos­i­tive and re­ally hope­ful. It is hard to say 100 per cent I’ll walk again, but it is pos­si­ble I will make a full re­cov­ery. We’ll see how we go.”

His par­ents, Matt, an air­line pi­lot, and Kelly, flew out on the day of his fall. His fa­ther will re­turn home when he is re­quired at work again but his mother in­tends to stay as long as he is in hospital.

Hav­ing rid­den in point-to-points and un­der rules in Bri­tain as an am­a­teur, he qual­i­fies for In­jured Jock­eys’ Fund sup­port and, fur­ther down the road to re­cov­ery, he an­tic­i­pates spend­ing some of his re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion at Oak­sey House, the char­ity’s state-of-the-art re­hab centre in Lam­bourn.

Pritchard Webb, who was brought up in mid-Wales, started out har­ness rac­ing (trot­ting) aged 14 be­fore de­cid­ing he wanted to be a jockey. Af­ter a stint at the Bri­tish Rac­ing School, he joined the sta­ble of Sir Mark Prescott for a year be­fore mov­ing to Fer­gal O’Brien, where he led up Per­fect Can­di­date in two Grand Na­tion­als and for one of his wins at Chel­tenham.

He did a cou­ple of sea­sons rid­ing in point-to-points, where he had sev­eral win­ners and, af­ter spend­ing the first half of last year as an am­a­teur jockey with Emma Bishop, he de­cided his fu­ture lay in France, where James Reve­ley and Felix de Giles are among the most suc­cess­ful jump jock­eys, hav­ing started their ca­reers in Bri­tain.

“I had had two win­ners since ‘con­fine­ment’,” he ex­plained. “I was just be­gin­ning to get go­ing a bit, rid­ing at Au­teuil and get­ting on a few better horses. Things were look­ing pos­i­tive.”

Struck down: Ja­cob Pritchard Webb in hospital with par­ents Kelly and Matt, and (left) af­ter win­ning a race at Angers in March

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