‘Why me?’: Broken jockey opens up on horrific fall
Jockey Andrew Adkins lie motionless on the track and in a world of pain but his overwhelming emotion was one of relief.
As he lay motionless on the turf, Andrew Adkins was aware of the eerie silence. He could hear himself breathe, noticed the blue sky above and could still move his arms and legs.
The jockey was in a world of pain but his overwhelming emotion was one of relief. He was alive.
Speaking for the first time since that horrific Rosehill race fall two weeks ago, Adkins told News Corp Australia that he remembers everything about the incident.
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"I could sense trouble coming,'' Adkins said.
Adkins was riding Hot 'N' Hazy when the young colt clipped heels and crashed to the turf near the 300m mark of the home straight.
The young jockey was thrown under the flying hoofs of rival runners. It was a shocking incident and onlookers feared the worst.
Lying on the turf, Adkins was conscious. He listened as the rest of field raced away from him.
"As long as you are breathing, you can see and move everything, it is a massive bonus after any fall,'' Adkins said.
"Because I could move my arms and legs, I was actually pretty happy, sigh of relief, really.
"But I knew straight away I had some serious injuries - my leg was in a bad way, and my collarbone and ribs were pretty sore.''
The ambulance officers were quickly on the scene attending to Adkins while a number of his fellow riders sprinted up the Rosehill straight to check on their fallen friend.
"Tommy (Berry), Sam (Clipperton), Lee (Magorrian) and a few others came out to see me, it was very nice of them, it meant a lot to have their support,'' Adkins said.
"I can't remember much about what was said but I think I asked Lee to get me that green whistle!"
The images of Adkins giving the thumbs up while sucking on the "green whistle" which is used for trauma pain relief were sent out on social media within minutes of the jockey being loaded into the ambulance and rushed to nearby Westmead Hospital.
This was a welcome sign for Adkins' many friends and supporters and the young jockey's upbeat demeanour was the only good news from a terrible racing incident that was to sadly claim the life of Hot 'N' Hazy and become the subject of a controversial stewards inquiry.
Adkins injuries were extensive - he suffered a broken tibia and fibula in his left leg, broken collarbone, seven broken ribs and a punctured lung.
His body was battered and broken - but his spirit wasn't.
"The broken bones can heal, I can deal with that,'' Adkins said.
What Adkins does struggle to deal with is the simple question: "Why me?"
The talented 22-year-old rider's has been dogged by bad luck in the past 18 months.
Adkins was involved in another horror fall at Randwick on Day Two of The Championships last year - Winx's farewell raceday - which left the jockey with three fractures in his back, broken sternum, ribs, jaw and nose.
He spent many months recuperating from those injuries and had only been back riding a few weeks, winning the $1 million Golden Gift on Dame Giselle last November, before he suffered a broken wrist.
"I've had so many injuries,'' Adkins said.
"It seems like you get up, then get knocked back down again, and get up only to get knocked down again.
"I do sometimes ask 'why me' but I can't dwell on that. I've got a positive mindset.
"I'm going to come out of this so I must stay positive. It could always be worse and that is the main thing I need to take from this situation.''
Racing NSW stewards held an inquiry into the Hot 'N' Hazy fall and eventually rubbed out Hall of Fame jockey Hugh Bowman for six weeks on a careless riding charge.
During the inquiry, the fall was replayed many times and from various angles. It was increasingly difficult to watch.
The stewards head-on film of the incident showed there wasn't any room for Bowman on Smart Image inside leader Mr Colorful coming to the 300m.
This is when Bowman made the fateful decision to switch outside Mr Colorful's heels and take a narrow gap inside the tiring Hot 'N' Hazy.
Stewards conceded there was initially a run for Smart Image outside of Mr Colorful but at virtually the same moment Bowman made his move, the leader drifted out slightly under pressure. Hot 'N' Hazy and Adkins were suddenly caught in a "squeeze play" and fell.
Many felt the stewards penalty was too lenient on Bowman and the jockey certainly copped his share of abuse on social media.
After the inquiry, Bowman made a brief statement to the media where he wished Adkins "a full and speedy recovery".
"I spoke to Andrew on the phone to convey how sorry I was for the accident,'' Bowman said before adding he was looking forward to again riding alongside Adkins when he recovered from his injuries.
Adkins chose his words carefully when asked about Bowman's involvement in the fall.
"I did speak to Hugh, everything is sweet,'' Adkins said. "I don't really want to say much more, I think he has had enough flak on social media.''
Adkins has "an old head on young shoulders" and if he does harbor any discontent with Bowman, he is not about to tell the world.
He was remarkably candid when talking about his injuries, mindset and rehabilitation. When the subject returned to the fall, he became more subdued.
Most jockeys are similar. They just don't like talking about race falls.
"No one likes to see them, talk about them or watch them,'' Adkins said.
"It's something jockeys don't really talk about it but we all accept that falls are part of the job.''
Adkins is a determined young man and although this latest incident has tested his resolve, he has youth on his side and will in time resume his successful riding career.
"I haven't had any indication from the doctors of what I'm looking at or how long I'm going to be out for,'' he said.
"All I have been concentrating on is getting out of hospital then letting the body heal. I know it is going to be a long road and I have to accept that.
"I'm still on painkillers but the pain hasn't been too bad the last few days. I'm comfortable enough to get some sleep now.
"I've had a lot of messages and calls of support which I'm thankful for but it's been a struggle mentally just being in the hospital for so long. I have not been able to have many visitors, just family, so it's been pretty boring.''
Adkins was finally allowed to leave Westmead Hospital during the week and was flown home to Port Macquarie where he is staying in a private hospital. He is hopeful of being allowed to leave soon and continue convalescing at his parents' home.
"I'm feeling a bit better knowing I can get out of hospital soon,'' Adkins said.
"I'm looking forward to going home, getting some fresh air and being with my family and friends.
"You feel more comfortable in your home environment and I'm thankful my parents and sister have been by my side all through this, they have been unbelievable. I'm feeling very blessed."
Originally published as 'Why me?': Broken jockey opens up on horrific fall