CLOSE CALL: Horse trainer dodges death in horrific fall

Grafton trainer Scott Henley nurses a raft of injuries at his home across the road from his stables and the racecourse following a fall during a trial.
Grafton trainer Scott Henley nurses a raft of injuries at his home across the road from his stables and the racecourse following a fall during a trial. Bill North

 

WHEN Scott Henley felt Rakhish's back quiver followed by heavy panting, he knew something wasn't right.

It was a sensation the Grafton trainer had not experienced in 34 years of riding horses. The four-year-old gelding had suffered a heart attack.

In the moments that followed Henley remained totally alert as his world came crashing down around him.

"The worse problem was I probably had too much time to think about where I was going to land and what I was going to do," Henley said.

"It's definitely the worst fall I've ever had."

The prized runner of Scott and wife Fleur's stable of about a dozen racehorses was in his first trial back since running fourth in the $150,000 NRRA Country Championships Qualifier on March 17, with an eye to running in the Class One Handicap on Grafton Cup Day.

 

Scott Henley-trained Rakhish (pink silks) ran fourth in the $150,000 NRRA Country Championships qualifier won by Matthew Dunn-trained La Scopa at Clarence River Jockey Club on 17th March, 2019.
Scott Henley-trained Rakhish (pink silks) ran fourth in the $150,000 NRRA Country Championships qualifier won by Matthew Dunn-trained La Scopa at Clarence River Jockey Club on 17th March, 2019. Bill North

"That was the plan, but it went a bit pear-shaped," he said.

"Fleur bought Rakish off (former boss) Gai (Waterhouse). He was going to be a handy horse this time up.

 

Grafton horse owner Fleur Henley with Country Championships contender Rakhish.
Grafton horse owner Fleur Henley with Rakhish prior to the 2019 NRRA Country Championships Qualifier. Matthew Elkerton

"I've never had one drop on me til the other day."

Rakhish crashed at full gallop through a guard rail at the 300m mark in the home straight during a 900m trial at Clarence River Jockey Club on June 21, throwing Henley awkwardly into the turf.

"I was conscious the whole way through it," he said. "To their credit, all the boys at the track, they didn't move me... I said 'there's something wrong, I don't know what it is, but there's something wrong'."

Henley suffered four broken ribs, a punctured lung, a broken wrist, a squashed nerve in his right shoulder and loss of feeling in his right hand.

Two weeks later it's the excruciating pain that shoots down his right arm causing the most grief.

"It paralyses you for two or three seconds," he said. "The doctor can't operate or see what actual damage it's done to the nerve til the swelling settles down.

So how does Scott Henley feel today?

"Like I've been thrown out of a truck at 69km/h.

"I'm just lucky I didn't hit my head. It could've ended up really bad.

"So I still have a good-looking head, but I just need a shave - I'm a right-hander. I can't even have a shower, Fleur's got to undress me.

"She is holding the fort together, in the stable and the household.

"I knocked on heaven's door and I knocked on the devil's door and neither wanted me, so here I am stuck here."

"I'm totally blessed."

Henley thanked Clarence River Jockey Club staff and chief steward Mark Holloway for their assistance during and since the incident.