Jade Hampson set to make raceday return at Darwin

NT jockey Jade Hampson
Darwin apprentice Jade Hampson has enjoyed endless success in Darwin, Alice Springs and interstate since making her riding debut in April last year. (Picture: Caroline Camilleri – Darwin Photography Professionals)

Leading NT apprentice Jade Hampson makes her return from injury at Darwin on Tuesday.

The 19-year-old has three rides and it will be her first appearance since injuring her back when dislodged from the Paul Gardner-trained Glacier Grey from Alice Springs at Fannie Bay on July 1 – a week before the Darwin Cup Carnival.

Glacier Grey was sitting outside the leader in second place before buckling at the 650m with Hampson landing heavily on the dirt surface.

Thankfully, the teenager immediately regained her feet and was treated by ambulance officers.

She was stood down from riding for the rest of the day and was taken to Darwin Royal Hospital for observation before being discharged.

Glacier Grey suffered fractures to the near fore leg and was euthanised.

It was Hampson’s third fall after making her debut in April last year – she suffered a broken ankle at her next meeting on Anzac Day and was sidelined for six weeks before avoiding injury when dislodged in July last year.

The second-year apprentice said she felt fine following her latest fall, but awoke the next day with back pain before a friend drove her to hospital.

“It felt like I couldn’t move, I was bit worried there for a while,” Hampson said.

“It hurt for almost two months until I stopped taking painkillers.”

Tests, x-rays, scans and a MRI revealed that Hampson suffered five fractures in her spine from the C7 (cervical vertebrae) to the T4 (thoracic vertebrae).

After winning the Alice Springs Cup in April on the Dick Leech-trained Write Your Name, Hampson missed the Darwin Cup Carnival.

Write Your Name would go on to win the Darwin Cup and there’s every chance Hampson would have been in the saddle, and not Paul Shiers, if she was fit.

Hampson, who has mixed endless hours of rehabilitation with the occasional holiday, is understandably looking forward to Tuesday.

“Definitely, it feels like it has been longer than four months,” she said.

“I’m feeling fit and ready to get back into it.

“I saw my doctor two weeks ago and we agreed that I’d be good to go come Tuesday.

“I’ve just been working hard and doing a lot of rehabilitation in the gym.

“It was always the plan for the last month to come back on Melbourne Cup Day.”

Despite missing the last month of the 2022/23 season, Hampson was still the top NT apprentice with 28 wins from Alice Springs-based Dakota Gillett (27) and Darwin’s Emma Lines (25).

Apart from her success in Darwin and Alice Springs, Hampson has also saluted in WA and SA before representing the NT and winning a heat of the National Apprentice Racing Series at Sandown in April.

Hampson, who has 51 career wins and still claims 2kg, had to tick plenty of boxes before getting the green light to return to racing.

“They obviously had me doing a lot of strength tests,” Hampson said.

“The specialist said that I needed three months, it’s now been four months.

“We went overtime just to give it a bit of extra time to heal.

“I had some scans to make sure that it was all good.

“I don’t notice it anymore and that’s why I’m confident to come back because it’s not sore at all.

“When I first started back doing track work – just as the horses pulled and got on the bridle – it was sore.

“I rode 14 horses on Thursday morning and I’m feeling good.”

Hampson hasn’t had any issues since resuming track work a month ago and is happy she waited that extra month before returning.

“I was in the gym doing exercises and a lot icing – trying everything to get the injury to heel,” she said.

“I saw a specialist from Sydney, who came to Darwin for a week, in the early days.

“I’m sure I’ll be sore after Tuesday.

“I’ve opted to take just three rides this week.

“Although it’s very hot at this time of year I’m looking forward to it.

“My minimum weight is 56kg, I’ll slowly drop back down in coming weeks.

“I just didn’t want to pressure myself in having to lose any weight or waste before Tuesday.

“I was going to come back at some stage, I just had to be patient.

“I just wanted to get back riding again, I’ve missed it heaps.”

Apprenticed to leading Top End trainer Tayarn Halter, Hampson worked around the stables during her rehabilitation.

She and fellow Darwin trainer Chole Baxter even ran Halter’s stable when she took a team to Kununurra in late August and early September.

“I love doing a bit of extra stuff for Tayarn, she’s the best,” Hampson said.

“I was kept busy and she had me doing all the media and owner updates.”

Hampson, the leading rider during the 2023 Alice Springs Cup Carnival, said that the thrill of claiming the Cup on Write Your Name and the interstate success she enjoyed is motivation as she strives to return to her winning ways.

On Tuesday, she will partner stablemates Raffalli – a horse she has won on previously – and Vetiver for Halter, as well as Taormina Duchess for trainer Garry Lefoe.

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