It’s not uncommon for jockeys to become stewards when their riding days are over but for Lacey Morrison the opposite also applies.
Morrison, who worked as a steward for more than two years, completed a remarkable return to race riding when she rode Tukiyo to victory at Doomben on Wednesday.
A heavily backed $1.40 favourite after opening at $2, Tukiyo scraped home by a short-half-head to win the Three-Year-Old Fillies Maiden (1110m) to give Morrison the first city win of her comeback.
After a shocking race fall on Ipswich Cup day in 2008, Morrison spent three months in hospital recovering from severe injuries including a bleeding and bruised brain and swelling to her spinal column.
She spent a further month at Princess Alexandra Hospital’s brain rehabilitation unit where she had to learn to walk and talk again, an experience she will never forget.
“It was strange, I thought I was OK but I wasn’t really,” she said.
“With brain injuries you think you’re fine but it took me 12 months to realise that I wasn’t and that I couldn’t do the day-to-day stuff.
“I got pretty depressed over it but I had good support and people looking after me and I pulled through.”.
A return to riding was the long term goal Morrison set herself but until she was able to gain a medical clearance she worked for Racing Queensland as a steward based in Toowoomba.
She would like to return to that role once she retires from race riding – on her terms.
For Morrison, April 14 last year will always be regarded as a milestone moment.
That was the day she returned to riding at Goondiwindi before success soon followed at a Julia Creek meeting in May.
So why the low-key return to riding on bush tracks?
“My plan was to get my timing and fitness back at those meetings because I would’ve hated to ride one a bit ordinary at Ipswich or Toowoomba – you know what haters are like,” she said.
“So I rode for three months up at Mt Isa then flew over to Townsville and did the carnival there and at Cairns then came back to Toowoomba in July.”
Although Tukiyo’s winning margin was only narrow, Morrison believes she will derive plenty of benefit from the experience.
“She did a lot wrong and because I had to rev her out she over-raced but there’s nothing like race fitness which she doesn’t have at the moment,” she said.
“Although she just got there at the finish she’ll improve a lot off that run.”