Canberra trainer Garry Kirkup’s racing rehabilitation will take another step forward when Highly Geared has her first Sydney start since a car accident claimed the life of his partner.
Highly Geared ran at Rosehill six days days after track rider and picnic jockey Samara Johnson was killed as she and Kirkup were travelling home in the NSW Riverina on December 3.
Kirkup watched the race unfold from his hospital bed in Canberra as he nursed severe abdominal and leg injuries.
Johnson’s parents and other family members were trackside as Highly Geared partnered with Samara’s long-time friend Rachel Hunt and raced in memory of the 25-year-old.
Kirkup intends to return to Rosehill on Saturday, where Highly Geared is listed to run in the Ascot Restaurant Sale Sprint (1100m).
He returned to light duties at Thoroughbred Park in February and hopes to resume track riding inside six months, providing a foot injury heals.
“It’s still a fair while off, but I will get back,” Kirkup said.
“I struggled a bit the first few months but things are getting a bit better now. All my injuries are not too bad now, apart from my foot.”
Kirkup, who is limited to a slow walk, is waiting to learn if he needed another operation.
While he continues physio, working in a limited capacity at the stables is also therapeutic.
“Mentally I’m getting better, physically I’m sort of three-quarters there,” he said.
“I just saddle them up and not too much else, apart from doing the feeds. Not being able to ride is frustrating because I used to ride half my horses every morning.
“I used to love getting a feel from them, and now you’ve got to trust what the riders are saying and hope they’re right.”
Kirkup is looking forward to Highly Geared returning to Rosehill despite her outside gate.
The trainer has 12 horses in work and although Highly Geared is a stable favourite he has a soft spot for two-year-filly, Star Of Samara.
“We got her at the Inglis sales and when I was in hospital the owners thought they’d call her that,” he said.
Star Of Samara was unplaced in her first start last Friday at Canberra but Kirkup was optimistic.
“She ran a bit green the other day, but she’s got ability,”he said.
First bet matched with up to $600 in Racing Bonus Bets!*