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'She was so passionate' - amateur jockey Lorna Brooke dies after fall

Lorna Brooke: described as "one in a million" by trainer Evan Williams
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Tributes have been paid to amateur jockey Lorna Brooke who died on Sunday aged 37 following a heavy fall at Taunton earlier this month.

Brooke was airlifted to Southmead Hospital in Bristol on April 8 after falling from Orchestrated, trained by her mother Lady Susan Brooke, and was taken into intensive care with a suspected spinal injury, but due to complications she was placed in an induced coma on Friday.

News of her death was announced in a statement by the Injured Jockeys Fund (IJF) on Monday morning, which read: "It is with deep sadness that we have to share the tragic news that Lorna Brooke passed away yesterday. 

"Her family thank everyone for their kindness in the last ten days, particularly the staff at Southmeads Hospital who were so professional. They will be having a private funeral and will hold a celebration of Lorna's life once Covid-19 restrictions allow."

Brooke rode 17 winners – 40 in point-to-points – including when landing the first running of a ladies' chase in Britain or Ireland at Fairyhouse in 2015 aboard Moonlone Lane for Paul Stafford. 

Lorna Brooke in the winner's enclosure at Fairyhouse in 2015

She rode more than 300 times for her mother and represented a number of trainers since her first winner under rules in 2002, including John Groucott, Tom Symonds and Evan Williams. Her final winner came at Sandon point-to-point in Staffordshire on April 3.

"The sport pulled us together and she was one of our own," said Williams. "Racing is built on hard-working people with a passion for horses like Lorna and she was an absolute joy to deal with. 

"She rode a winner for me aboard Dashing Doc at Newton Abbot a few years ago. He was a very tricky horse and professional jockeys couldn't win on him but Lorna was definitely up for the challenge. 

"She was far more optimistic about his chances than I was but she always looked on the bright side of life. Even if she was on an outsider, it didn't matter and she always gave 100 per cent.

Remember her joy but be reminded of the dangers as we mourn Lorna Brooke

"It's so devastating to think poor old Lorna has gone – words can't describe it. She was what makes this sport great. It's not just about the big prizes at big meetings, it's about the Lornas of this world.

"Whether in a cold point-to-point somewhere or at a little track in Devon or Herefordshire, she was always there with her big smile. She put in the hard work every day and was simply one in a million."

Those sentiments were shared by Groucott, who said: "She was passionate about horses and rode because she loved it. It's a tragedy as she was the loveliest person you'd ever hope to meet.

"She's reasonably local to us and started by riding out a bit. She always gave horses a terrific ride. We have a lot of exceptional female jockeys and she was probably a bit before her time in that regard – she's one of the ladies who set the standards early doors."

Lorna Brooke: a talented amateur who travelled far and wide pursuing her passion

The BHA released a statement following the announcement, which read: "The entire racing community is in mourning. We ask for the privacy of Lorna's family to be respected at this time and we await the opportunity to celebrate her young life when restrictions allow."

It included the thoughts of the regulator's chief executive Julie Harrington, who added: "Lorna was a much-loved member of our sport, in which she and her family are steeped. She demonstrated many of the qualities that make British racing so special.

Race connections observe a minute's silence before racing at Windsor on Monday

"She was a proud competitor who was driven by an abundance of love not only for the sport but for the horses she competed with. My thoughts, along with everybody else who loves racing, are with Lorna's family, friends and colleagues at this dreadful time."

A period of silence was observed at every meeting in Britain on Monday and jockeys wore black armbands. In a statement, the Professional Jockeys Association (PJA) also paid tribute to Brooke. 

"This is a devastating reminder of the dangers our brave men and women face and our thoughts and prayers are with Lorna’s family, friends and colleagues," said PJA chief executive Paul Struthers. 

"Lorna was an incredibly hard-working, popular member of the weighing room and while her licence was as an amateur, she was a professional in every other sense. We have lost one of our own and she'll be sorely missed."

How Lorna Brooke beat some giants of the game at Fairyhouse

Brooke, who rode her final winner under rules in October 2019, was a regular in point-to-points and was praised by the Amateur Jockeys Association of Great Britain and its chief executive Sarah Oliver. 

"Lorna was blessed with a vivacious, bubbly personality and her smile lit up the racecourse wherever she went," said Oliver. "Many of us are familiar with Lorna's presence over many years not only on the racecourse but also point-to-pointing, which was her passion.

"Her unfailing smile allowed Lorna to make friends and her thirst for racing was unquenchable – she embodied everything there is to love about jump racing. Her loss is keenly felt in the weighing room and beyond. One thing is for certain – Lorna will never be forgotten."

Brooke was the first rider to sustain fatal injuries while race-riding under rules in Britain or Ireland since Tom Halliday in July 2005.

She demonstrated many of the qualities that make British racing so special
E.W. Terms