Perhaps one of the most unconsidered factors about sport is the physical demand on those who take part in it, and the dangers that sportspeople face through putting their bodies through immense pressure every day. This is no truer than in horse racing, where its contestants grab on to the back of a half-ton mammal and accelerate round tracks at up to 40 mph in fields of up to 40 horses per race. Last week the sport made headlines when four horses collided during a flat race at Kempton Park, throwing the jockeys from their saddles onto the synthetic surface below. Three of the riders suffered only minor injuries, and the horses involved were unhurt, but for promising young jockey Freddy Tylicki the incident resulted in a T7 paralysis, tragically leaving him without use of the bottom half of his body. In light of this shocking news, the racing community did what it does best, and rallied round Tylicki and his family, with thousands of messages of support coming from fellow riders as well as trainers, owners, stable staff, journalists and ordinary fans offering their own condolences as he lay in the intensive care unit at St George’s Hospital in London.
Actions speak louder than words, however, and outspoken racing broadcaster Matt Chapman, soon to start a new job as ITV Racing’s betting correspondent, was quick to set up a GoFundMe page to take contributions to support Tylicki and his family, now he finds himself unable to do the job he has excelled at for the last decade. The response was immediate. Chapman set the modest target of £20,000 but within hours donations from all corners of the racing fraternity and beyond had far exceeded that sum. By the time the page stopped taking donations on Wednesday, more than £200,000 had been raised, with several additional large contributions promised by various bookmakers, an appropriate gesture from businesses which rely on the talent of people like Tylicki within the industry.
It’s difficult to fathom the situation that the Group 1 winning rider finds himself in now. Having dedicated his life to the sport he will no longer be able to race-ride, and will in time need to find a new pursuit in life. Those who know him best, however, have spoken of how they think of no one better to find the silver lining in this most unfortunate of situations, and Tylicki will no doubt take solace in events surrounding former jump jockey Robbie McNamara, who was paralysed in a fall at Wexford last year, and has now embarked upon a promising career in training.
Racing can be a controversial sport. It can, on occasion, be a difficult sport to love. It is certainly a sport of immense ups and downs. But it will always be a sport that looks out for its own, and then some. It would be impossible for most of us to imagine how Freddy Tylicki is feeling at this moment, but there is no better community for him to be a part of at this incredibly difficult time.
Photo Credit: PA