INSPIRED: Apprentice jockey Elyce Smith rides the Fred Smith Rocky Poet to victory at Callaghan Park on Thursday.
INSPIRED: Apprentice jockey Elyce Smith rides the Fred Smith Rocky Poet to victory at Callaghan Park on Thursday. Matt Harris

Elyce Smith returns to Callaghan Park in glory

THEY say a week is a long time in racing - this one has certainly felt that way and quite frankly I'm glad that it's over.

For some reason wherever I looked or turned I saw or heard something that made me question my long-standing love of thoroughbred horse racing.

Every day I felt like I was living the movie Groundhog Day and by the end of the races at Callaghan Park on Thursday I was disillusioned with racing and ready to walk away.

This is not a punting nor an ownership sob story as nothing from either department was personally ventured during the course of the week so there was nothing to be gained (or lost either) in that regard.

And before you ask, it's complicated, so I don't expect you to understand and I'm not in a position to elaborate only to say that the happenings were all "behind the scenes” things.

Then on my dark Thursday evening a light appeared in the form of a Facebook post from Rockhampton apprentice jockey Elyce Smith.

Hours earlier I was trackside watching 21-year-old Smith steer her father's horse Rocky Poet home a winner, in her well-documented first ride back from injury.

While the achievement was not lost on me at the time I didn't fully appreciate its magnitude until Smith wrote on Facebook: "173! It has been 173 days since I woke in an ICU (Intensive Care Unit) bed having little to no recollection as to why I was there, what had happened and what was to come. I was then told I had fallen from my mount heading to the barriers and thrown into a judges tower which resulted in me suffering injuries that nearly forced me to be put on life support.

"I spent the next two days in and out of consciousness. The day I was discharged I thought 'well the hard part is over'. And how wrong I was. Something I never thought I would have to recover from was post-traumatic stress. For months after my accident the thought of getting back on a horse scared the living daylights out of me. The thought of going back racing wasn't even in the picture. But with the help of Jesse (partner) I got back on the horse and with every ride my confidence grew. There was still a question mark about my comeback leading into Christmas. But as everyone knows racing always pulls you back.

"I would not have survived these last 173 days if it wasn't for the support I received from my amazing friends and family. Double credit has to go to Karen Smith (mum) and Jesse for dealing with my meltdowns and self doubt and I won't lie there were plenty of them and a lot of 'I can't do this' moments. You two were my rocks!

"And a massive thank you has to go to Tom Acton (owner) for allowing me to have my first ride back on Rocky Poet. Your faith in dad's decisions is something that we are thankful for.

"And Thomas (brother) you weren't a bad strapper I guess.

"So long story short...I'M BACK stronger than ever and have my eyes set on new goals!”

Many people wrote messages of congratulations on Elly's Facebook post.

I wrote: "Brilliant. Inspiring. Just brilliant Elyce Smith.”

Then I started reading her post again from the beginning.

But this time I didn't make it to the end.

I stopped at the sentence: "But as everyone knows racing always pulls you back” and I put my phone down for the night.

I hope you're right, Elly.

Your story is inspiring and what you have achieved out there on Capricornia race tracks in your short career to date is one of the great things about horse racing.

Still on the subject of jockeys, a couple of weeks back I wrote in this column about the passing of former Rockhampton horse conditioner Don Forsyth who trained talented gallopers of their time Sir Arthur and Some Like It Hot.

The piece brought back fond memories for avid follower of this column Grant Scott, a former jockey who is still heavily involved in the local industry through his role as jockey rooms attendant at Callaghan Park on race days.

On Thursday Grant brought with him an old photograph of the 1980-81 Rockhampton Horse of the Year Sir Arthur winning the first of his 14 races.

Grant showed it to me and said that he was in the saddle that day and he rode Sir Arthur to many other victories. He also told me that he rode the 1979-80 Rockhampton Horse of the Year Some Like It Hot to the first of his many wins among others. Thanks for sharing your walk down memory lane, Grant.

Racing returns to Callaghan Park on Thursday.

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