When amateur jockey Brodie Hampson steps out of the weighing room to ride Only The Brave at VL Aesthetics Ladies Night at Carlisle tomorrow (Monday 2nd August), there will be part of her that knows she is lucky to be riding at all.
Life has not been easy for the 27 year old, who along with suffering a catalogue of serious injuries has had to deal with losing her dad Mark to cancer in May 2016 and watch her mum bravely defeat the same disease on three separate occasions.
It has already been a year of ups and downs for Hampson who only returned to race riding at Beverley on Tuesday of last week, having spent the last four months on the sidelines with a broken leg sustained in a freak gallops accident in Lambourn in March.
Reflecting on her latest comeback, Hampson, the fiancée of Group One-winning trainer Archie Watson, admits her most recent time spent out of the saddle nursing her right leg back to full health has been both mentally, and physically challenging.
She said: “It was the first injury that I have done at home. I was riding a bit of work on one of Archie’s, going very quick, and my whole stirrup iron just came off my saddle. It was a complete freak accident.
“It was a bad injury but I’d say I’m very lucky as you know what those all-weather falls are like. Luckily I landed rolling but if I hadn't landed like that I dread to think of what state I would have been in.
“There were six fractures, three in the fibula and three tibia. They were completely unlined and the operation was quite hard to do.
“The surgeon said it took them a long time to get the bone straight again, but I was always determined to get back in the saddle.
“This injury has been the hardest to get back from. It has not just been physically tiring but it has also been mentally tiring
“You go weeks where you feel like you haven’t improved at all. It feels like it has been a year but it has just been over four months.
“I can’t praise the team at Oaksey House in Lambourn enough. Without knowing it they have helped me so much mentally. They really are just great people.”
Although Hampson’s journey from her latest setback has been tough, arguably her most severe injury arrived when breaking her back for the second time, along with sustaining a bleed to her head following a fall aboard the Sophie Leech-trained Saxo Jack at Newton Abbot in 2018.
She said: “I was 17 when I broke my back for the first time in a point-to-point and then it was 2018 when I broke my back the second time at Newton Abbot when I also had the bleed on the head which was quite bad.
“I’ve done my collarbone three times and, I’ve broken thumbs and fingers but they are easy to do. I also fractured my left knee once, and that was another fall at Newton Abbot while one of my collarbone breaks was there as well.
“Regarding the 2018 incident though I was in hospital for a few days and I couldn’t walk without throwing up. It made me really sick.
“As well as the physical fitness with my back I had to do so much with my balance as I had a bad concussion but they worked so hard with me at Oaksey House to get me back in good shape again.”
Victory aboard Only The Brave would complete Hampson’s latest road to recovery, however it would still fall short of her win on Jennys Surprise in her dad’s silks in the 2016 Royal Artillery Gold Cup at Sandown Park just months before he passed away.
She said: “Dad was first diagnosed with cancer in 2010 while I was doing my GCSE exams. He was operated on and was given the all clear but then it came back in April 2014 when it was terminal.
“In December 2015 he was told he had 28 days to live but thankfully he defied that and in February I was able to get him down to Sandown from the hospice.
“I still can’t believe it now and I owe that mare Jennys Surprise my life really
“Turning in I don’t know what I was trading in running but someone was obviously looking down on me to get up and do that in his colours in a military race with all his army friends there.
“You couldn’t have written it. It was the best day of my life. I still watch the race once a month now. It meant the world to me and it was the best day ever.”
Although her dad’s story was well-documented at the time of her victory on Jennys Surprise, and once again when winning the Royal Artillery Gold Cup for a second time on Carlos Du Fruitier in 2019, her mum Jan’s story is less well known but equally as inspiring.
She added: “Mum has had cancer three times. Firstly in 1998, then in 2014 and what I hope will be the last time in 2016 after dad passed away.
“Looking back I don’t know how I managed to pull myself through it all.
“The second time mum got diagnosed with cancer I remember she was having the operation and I was sat in McDonalds with dad waiting to get the call when she finished her operation.
“Then the third time when she was having the operation I was sat on my own and it was a bit surreal really.
“I’ve a good family around me, and Archie is fantastic, but when I look back I don’t know how I got through it all as it’s been hard.
“My mum, although she has been through that, is the toughest woman I know and if grow up to be half of what she is it will be amazing.
“Dad was my biggest supporter in racing coming everywhere with me and now that I have lost him, mum has more than stepped up to be my mum and dad. She is my best friend.”
Given what Hampson had to deal with there is no better named horse she could secure at first success at Carlisle on than Only The Brave, who will face 11 rivals in division two of the PC Abs Ahmed Memorial Race Handicap.
And although the daughter of Exchange Rate is without a win in almost three years, Hampson remains optimistic she can strike gold on her third start in Britain in the mile contest.
She concluded: “I’ve only ridden her once and she has only run twice for Archie. She is one of those typical fillies that needs it to go her way and get a bit of luck. She is better than her mark so I’m really hopeful.
“We are going to put the blinkers on her and I jumped her out of the stalls on them on Thursday and they put her spot on. She tries hard at home in her work.
“It was hard getting back in the saddle but there was relief when I did it at Beverley the other day, I just need to ride a winner now and hopefully Only The Brave can be it.”