Amateur jockey Lorna Brooke dies after fall at Taunton, aged 37

Marcus Armytage
·5-min read
Brooke had ridden 17 winners - PA
Brooke had ridden 17 winners - PA

Lorna Brooke, the amateur jockey who sustained spinal injuries in a fall at Taunton on April 8, has died in hospital.

Although she had chatted positively to friends about the future at the start of last week, Brooke, who had been airlifted to hospital in Bristol following the fall from her mother’s horse Orchestrated in a chase at the west country course, had been put in an induced coma after complications set in a week later.

A statement from the Injured Jockeys Fund said: “It is with deep sadness that we have to share the tragic news that Lorna Brooke passed away yesterday. Her family thank everyone for their kindness in the last 10 days, particularly the staff at Southmeads Hospital who were so professional.”

Brooke, 37, was a hard-working, true amateur who rode some fairly moderate but nearly always safe horses, for the love of it and for the love of them. She even drove Orchestrated, a horse who had never previously fallen, to the races in a lorry on the day of her fall.

She was an experienced horsewoman having ridden over 60 point-to-point winners – the last one was on Garde Ville at the North Staffordshire’s meeting at Sandon on Easter Saturday the weekend before her fall.

She rode 17 winners under Rules including one at Fairyhouse in the inaugural lady jockeys chase on 25-1 shot Moonlone Lane in 2015. She kept the ride and won next time out at Musselburgh.

The only daughter of Sir Alistair and Lady Susan Brooke and brought up in Dolau in Powys, she had been a part of the Welsh-Herefordshire racing scene for 20 years.

She was a popular member of the Amateur Jockeys Association representing it in a ladies Arabian series in Poland and Abu Dhabi in 2015 and in amateur jockeys’ races in Mauritius in 2018 and Germany in 2019.

Hannah Lewis, another amateur rider, went to primary school with her and worked at Richard Lee’s yard with her when they were teenagers. “I’ve known her 30 years through school, young farmers, pointing and parties,” she said. “She was always happy and joyful. She loved what she did and lived for it. For her it was all about her horses but she was always good for a laugh.”

Recalling when she rode a winner for him at Newton Abbot, beating Rachael Blackmore into third, in a female riders hurdle on Dashing Doc in 2011, Evan Williams said: “The best way I can describe Lorna is an enthusiast. Whether it was a point-to-point in Herefordshire or riding under rules with the girls in the changing room, she was always smiling and always working.

“She was a bubbly personality and typical of so many people involved in the industry - unsung heroes who are part of the weighing room and one of us, if that makes sense. It's what makes racing so very special.

“You'd see her and her mum Sue in Ffos Las or Taunton, they’d be doing all the work themselves. You'd often have to give her a leg-up or give her a hand to lead one up - that was their enjoyment and that was their life. For her to pay the ultimate price is so terribly devastating, but it was her passion.”

She is the first jump jockey to be killed on a British racecourse as a direct result of a fall since Tom Halliday at Market Rasen in July 2005. Prior to that Richard Davis died following a fall at Southwell in 1996, Philip Barnard at Wincanton in 1991 and Vivian Kennedy at Huntingdon in 1988.

Paul Struthers of the Professional Jockeys Association said: “This is a devastating reminder of the dangers our brave men and women face and our thoughts and prayers are with Lorna’s family, friends and colleagues.

“Lorna was an incredibly hard working, popular member of the weighing room and whilst her licence was as an amateur jockey she was a professional in every other sense. We have lost one of our own and she will be sorely missed.”

Brooke's death will have left sombre spell over racing's weighing rooms

By Marcus Armytage

The constant threat of injury is why the vast majority jockeys, jump or Flat, rarely get above themselves but paying the ultimate price for one’s sport is the elephant in the weighing room.

No-one likes to be reminded of that and the changing rooms at Hexham, Market Rasen, Windsor and Pontefract would have been sombre places for the racing family on Monday.

Everyone from the champion down knows that there, but for the grace of God, goes him or her and, whether they knew Lorna Brooke or not, her passing will have served as an uncomfortable reminder of their mortality.

Raceriding is now so much safer than it ever was through a combination of mandatory protective gear such as helmets and body protectors, fitter, better-fed jockeys, better track management and horse welfare improvements – it is often forgotten that the safer it is for a horse the safer it is for a jockey.

Nevertheless if jockeys stopped long enough to think about it they would probably do what most of the nation does and never go near a horse because it is inherently dangerous.

If you become a jockey it is a question ‘when’ not ‘if’ you will break a bone – that is part of the contract and the rare death of a jockey is the counter-weight to the thrill one gets from riding over obstacles or at speed on the level.

Riding in a race remains the only occupation where you are followed at work by an ambulance with paramedics on hand to pick up the pieces.

But however effective today’s protective gear is and however fit a jockey is when half a ton of racehorse rolls on you, propels you into the ground at 35mph or you just land really awkwardly, sometimes nothing can save you – that is the nature of the sport.