Intensive rehab at Jack Berry House pays off for National hero Fox
Derek Fox went through hell to be fit enough to ride Saturday's Grand National hero One For Arthur, according to weighing room colleague Andrew Thornton, who saw first hand how the jockey battled back to fitness.
Fox, who heaped praise on staff at Jack Berry House after winning the National, faced a race against time to recover for Aintree after breaking his wrist and collarbone in a fall at Carlisle on March 9, and Thornton, on the sidelines after a knee operation, said it would have been impossible without the help of the jockeys' rehabilitation centre in Malton.
That view was echoed by strength and conditioning coach Danny Hague, who along with physios Gemma Darley, Sophie Phillips and Cat Lesson helped Fox regain full fitness.
Elaborating on that "hell", Hague said on Sunday: "What a story, it was fantastic to see him winning. It was a race against the clock and it was a team effort. I sat down with the physiotherapy staff and we mapped out a best-case scenario to get him back fit, obviously managing the healing process.
"Alongside that, I had two sessions a day with him – they tended to be 40 minutes to an hour – where we'd focus on his general athleticism, keeping his lower body strong and fit, so he didn't lose fitness.
"I started to load his wrist in the pool with lower-weight bearing exercises to get his tolerance back up, then we'd start to progress that in the gym as his wrist could accommodate more.
"And for his last session I did a Grand National simulation raceday. It was a 12-minute circuit that involved a lot of lower body explosive movements combined with a mechanical horse. It was a tough circuit for him, but he managed extremely well and it was all down to him, engaging with it and putting his trust in us."
Hague, speaking from Lanzarote where his father Steve had provided him with text updates of the National, described the facilities at Jack Berry House, which opened two years ago, as phenomenal, and said Fox had returned to action in the best shape of his career.
"I think he increased his top-end aerobic fitness by 29 per cent in that short three-week period, which is a significant increase," Hague added.
"He said that to me – that he thought he was fitter than he'd been before the injury, and that's pretty much our motto at Jack Berry House.
"We've a quote on the wall that says, 'Injury is an opportunity to come back better than you were before'.
"We know they get injuries, but then it's an opportunity to work on their overall athleticism, so when they do come back they're in the best possible shape."
You can support the work of Jack Berry House, and Oaksey House, via http://www.injuredjockeys.co.uk/donations.asp