One-eyed jockey has the vi­sion to de­liver a win­ner

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - Fi­nal whis­tle Mar­cus Army­tage

At about the same time that the Jockey Club’s ac­ri­mo­nious part­ing of ways with its chief ex­ec­u­tive was be­com­ing a pub­lic mud-sling­ing match on Sun­day, an­other jockey club dou­bled its mem­ber­ship when, with real mud fly­ing, Dr Guy Mitchell won an am­a­teur rid­ers’ race at Good­wood on the 50-1 shot The Game Is On.

Mitchell, a 46-year-old GP from Pul­bor­ough in West Sus­sex who is race­course doc­tor at Good­wood, As­cot and Fon­twell, was hav­ing only his fourth ride in pub­lic when he be­came the first jockey with only one eye to ride a win­ner un­der rules.

“I don’t think much about hav­ing one eye,” he says with­out a hint of bit­ter­ness that for 30 years he was de­nied a li­cence. “I find it far more re­mark­able that I’m 46 and do­ing it. That’s the achieve­ment. For a day or two, it was the best thing ever.”

The other mem­ber of this se­lect club of jock­eys with im­por­tant but ob­vi­ously not es­sen­tial body parts miss­ing is Guy Dis­ney, an am­putee who lost his leg be­low the knee in a rocket at­tack in Afghanista­n. Dis­ney has since won both the Grand Mil­i­tary and Royal Ar­tillery Gold Cups over jumps.

Ul­ti­mately, how­ever, the first win­ning post for both men was ac­tu­ally be­ing al­lowed to ride. While the fight to com­pete was shorter and more in­tense for Dis­ney, Mitchell had been try­ing in­ter­mit­tently since he was 16.

He lost his eye at the age of three when a tu­mour was re­moved from be­hind it. “Ad­ver­si­ties,” he says, “are the mak­ing of you.” His dis­abil­ity did not stop him do­ing any­thing un­til, at med­i­cal school, he quit rugby af­ter frac­tur­ing the socket of his good eye in sev­eral places when, try­ing to grab a low pass dur­ing a train­ing ses­sion, he ran into the point of an op­po­nent’s shoul­der. “That got me in a lot of trou­ble with my mum,” he says.

One imag­ines he has a ter­rific bed­side man­ner and the pa­tients of Pul­bor­ough are set a good ex­am­ple by their doc­tor’s lev­els of fit­ness. He is even a mem­ber of the “Mad Men of the Windy Moun­tain” club for those who have cy­cled up Mount Ven­toux – which breaks cy­clists and bikes in equal mea­sure as a sum­mit fin­ish on the Tour de France – three times in a day.

The son of an Ep­som trainer, Mitchell first at­tempted to get his li­cence – in those days from the Jockey Club – while at school, but was turned down. He tried again at univer­sity and, still rid­ing out once a week, was fi­nally cleared to ride last year af­ter go­ing to the Bri­tish Horserac­ing Author­ity’s chief doc­tor, Dr Jerry Hill, ask­ing for a prag­matic dis­cus­sion about it, as time was run­ning out. Not much dif­fer­ent from driv­ing up a mo­tor­way, he rea­soned.

Mitchell down­plays his job as a race­course doc­tor as “pre-hos­pi­tal sports medicine” rather than “ar­riv­ing by air am­bu­lance in an or­ange jump suit ready to save the world”. His ini­tial as­sess­ment in­cludes check­ing for po­ten­tial spinal in­jury and clear air­ways.

The race­course doc­tor is usu­ally the first per­son a fallen jockey takes his frus­tra­tion out on.

“It’s a pretty good in­di­ca­tion their air­ways are clear when they tell you to ‘p--- off ’ in no un­cer­tain terms,” he says of the pri­mary di­ag­nos­tic tech­nique, which he knows not to take per­son­ally. Know­ing that he has car­ried out 1,000 va­sec­tomies, I would be more re­spect­ful.

On one oc­ca­sion he put David Crosse’s shoul­der back in two min­utes af­ter the jockey had dis­lo­cated it at As­cot and signed him off. When he saw that Crosse had gone to the trou­ble of be­ing cleared by an­other doc­tor to ride the next day, he thought there must be good rea­son and in­vested heav­ily on the horse he was rid­ing. It did not win, but drilled home the point that race­course doc­tors are not deal­ing with nor­mal peo­ple.

He is also sure that the in­de­struc­tible AP McCoy cod­ded him that he was fine when he was bro­ken. That, how­ever, is a far big­ger club than the one he fi­nally joined on Sun­day.

Job done: Guy Mitchell, who lost his right eye when he was three, has re­alised his dream

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.