CHAMPION jockey Damien Oliver, who resumes riding at Flemington on Saturday after a 15-month absence with a career-threatening spinal injury similar to that of Collingwood forward Blake Caracella, had only three words of advice for the Magpie: “Don’t rush it.”
Caracella received fractured Vertebrae and bruising of the spinal cord in an accidental collision with Brisbane’s Tim Notting at the MCG last Saturday night.
Caracella remains in the Alfred Hospital and is expected to make a full recovery, although he will have to wear a neck brace for about six weeks.
Oliver does not remember much about his fall at Moonee Valley on March 24 last year but believes he got to his feet before the ambulance officers following the field got to him. “I was pretty much out of it, but they told me I was walking around, so I was probably lucky I didn’t make it any worse than it was,” he said.
“These sort of injuries are more prevalent in racing than in football, although, thankfully, few are as serious as the one I suffered.”
He fractured the T3 and T4 vertebrae near the top of the spinal cord in the fall and had to have titanium rods inserted on either side of the spine. They were removed early this year.
Oliver had to ease off on the Rehabilitation work he had been doing to strengthen his back and shoulders and let nature take its course.
“You get to a stage when you are feeling OK but you’re not and, as I’ve been saying for several months now, it takes as long as it takes.”
After riding trackwork for the past three weeks, Oliver finally got a clearance from his surgeon on Monday to resume race riding. “I’m still a bit sore after riding trackwork but that’s only to be expected after such a long time out,” he said.
Oliver also admitted to being “a bit toey but very excited” to be getting back into action on Saturday.
He will have three mounts at Flemington, all for Lee Freedman, for whom he has been riding work at Rye. He will be on Evilweb, Kill The Cat and Mi Casa Su Casa, all horses he has been riding in trackwork.
Oliver was also supposed to be riding Jacques Le Naif for Ballarat trainer Terry Kelly in the Provincial Plate until it was discovered yesterday the horse was ineligible.
Instead, he will now ride Jacques Le Naif at Moonee Valley on Monday, along with two more for Freedman – Our Apache and Renmin Road.