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