acing’s rulers have stood by the existing system for examining a jockey’s fitness to ride, following the revelation that Danny Cook has been riding with impaired vision for the past week. Cook stood himself down after a fall on Definitly Red at Newcastle on Saturday, saying his sight had not recovered from severe facial injuries including a fractured eye-socket and broken nose he suffered in a mid-October fall when a horse appeared to kick him. He also had 50 stitches in his facial wounds.
“I’ve not been riding to my full capability, so I need to get it sorted,” he said. He said his ability to judge distance was affected and that may have been a factor in the three falls he and his mounts have suffered in 16 rides since his comeback.
Cook said the impairment was much less noticeable when he was in an upright position and he continues to drive. For that reason, he had not brought the problem to the attention of medical examiners when his fitness to return to action was assessed.
“They were more worried about the fractures and the protection for the eyeball. With the eyesight, it was more my own judgment,” he said. “When I try to ride in a jockey position, it’s just a complete blur. It’s when I’m crouched over and trying to look up with my head tilted back, that’s when it’s worst.”
The Grand National-winning jockey Robbie Power has described a similar problem, the result of a kick to the head he suffered in 2016. “It’s only a problem when you’re on a horse, looking out of the top of your eyeball,” Power said the following year, having found a way to cope by using corrective goggles.
The British Horseracing Authority said it could not discuss a specific case for reasons of confidentiality, but stressed the vigour of its processes. “There are established protocols in place for jockeys returning to competition from injury where consultants, physiotherapists and other clinicians assess structure (eg fracture healing) and function (eg range of movement/strength),” a statement said.
“It isn’t always possible to fully replicate the conditions of competitive race-riding away from the racecourse in a gym or clinic setting, even using an equicizer or when riding out. The process of returning is graduated and feedback from riders as they progress through those stages is very important, and we recognise that some issues do not become fully apparent until racing has recommenced.
“We’re always open to feedback from those we are assisting to help ensure our protocols in this area are as functionally relevant and sports specific as they can be.”
Cook still hopes his condition can improve with time or treatment and is to see a specialist this week. “There are a few things that need to go on, anyway. There’s a bone sticking out where I had the fracture in the first place that needs filing down. I thought, when I finished racing in the summer, I could have done it then. Now that I’m struggling to see, I’ll have to get everything sorted while I can.
“Where my eyebrow bone’s been pushed back into my head, there’s a corner bit near my eyeball, I’ve got a pointy bit sticking out there. It’s not pretty …”