Jody Townend completed a remarkable return from serious injury to win the feature race on day one of the 2019 Galway Races.
Having only returned to competitive action earlier in the month, Townend was given the leg up by Willie Mullins aboard his Great White Shark in the Connaught Hotel (QR) Handicap, and she bided her time throughout much of the contest aboard the five-year-old mare.
Despite a wall of horses sitting in front her as the home bend loomed, the 21-year-old Midleton-native kept her cool, bringing the well-supported 8/1 shot wide to deliver her challenge in the home straight, and by the line the pair had a length and three-quarters to spare over the Michael O’Sullivan-ridden Dalton Highway.
Success in the €120,000 contest, which is one of the feature races of the season for qualified riders, was undoubtedly a big boost for the younger sister of champion jockey Paul Townend, given that she missed all of last season through a schooling fall and the resulting complications from a T12 vertabrae fracture.
That denying her the chance to build upon a breakthrough season between the flags in the 2017/18 campaign where she rode three winners to a 25% strike rate.
“I broke my T12 vertebrae [in a schooling fall]. I had to get six screws and two rods put in, and a stabiliser because the fracture was in my spinal cord,” the winning rider told The Irish Times.
“I was supposed to be back in February and when I came back riding out, I got awful pains down one side. The back started weeping.
“I went back and they washed it out but it wasn’t enough. So I had to go back for a third operation and they had to take all he metal out.
“But then the infection was after going into the bone at that stage so I was on a drip for six weeks – but it’s in the past now so I can forget about it!” she explained.