Henry Brooke is already struggling to contain his excitement ahead of Highland Lodge’s intended appearance in the Randox Grand National at Aintree next April.
The 25-year-old was placed in an induced coma following a heavy fall at Hexham in early October and also suffered nine broken ribs and a punctured lung.
However, the determined jockey made remarkably quick progress and after returning at Catterick, he came so close to a dream first winner back when Jimmy Moffatt’s Highland Lodge was beaten just a short head when trying to defend his crown in the Becher Chase over the National fences.
Highland Lodge narrowly missed the cut for the world’s most famous steeplechase last season, but hopes are high he will get his shot at National glory this time around.
Brooke said: “It was a fantastic training performance from Jimmy to get him there bang-on for his first run of the season and he ran a great race.
“I couldn’t believe how he came up at Becher’s, and then he took off with me going down to two out and winged the last.
“It was disappointing to get touched off, but we’d rather win the National than the Becher and hopefully he’ll definitely get in the race this year.
“He’s not easy to deal with at home and he has a big wooden head on him, but to put in the kind of performance he did, he must have massive ability.”
Even disregarding Brooke’s serious injuries, it would be quite a story if Highland Lodge were to win the National next spring.
The 10-year-old was snapped up for just £22,000 by Moffatt before his Becher triumph of 12 months ago, while in the lead-up up to his ultimately failed attempt to get a run in the National, Highland Lodge’s owners Simon and Julie Wilson tragically lost their teenage son Patrick from a brain tumour.
“I just think this horse and Jimmy are meant to be together, the owner is meant to own him and hopefully I’m meant to ride him,” said Brooke.
“It would be a bit of a fairytale, but it could happen.
“I’ve already got it in the back of mind now at this time of year and I really think he’s going to run a massive race in the National, if not win it.”