Courageous apprentice targets return

Even at her lowest point when lying in a hospital bed did apprentice jockey Hannah Fitzgerald ever consider walking away from racing.

If anything, her long enforced absence reinforced her love of the sport and fuelled her desire to get back to riding and doing what she loves best.

Hannah Fitzgerald took the first tentative steps towards that personal goal at Lark Hill trials on Monday, seven months after a sickening fall at Kalgoorlie.

After passing the winning post she came off her mount Neurologic and was airlifted to Royal Perth Hospital where she was placed in an induced coma.

Recuperating in hospital for close to a month and in addition to her serious head injuries, Fitzgerald also had to deal with a broken collarbone.

Despite the severity of her injuries and an exhaustive recovery period, Fitzgerald was always determined to get back in the saddle.

"I missed it a lot and it finally feels good to be back at it," Fitzgerald told The Races WA.

"Never at any stage did I think I would not be coming back.

"I'm very set and as soon as I get set on something I have to finish it.

"Obviously, my parents going forward will be a bit nervous, but they are very supportive of my decision.

"They know how much I want to continue riding and will definitely standby me."

Fitzgerald rode Divine Shadow and She's Enchanted in heat nine and 12 respectively at Lark Hill, the latter winning by an impressive margin.

Although determined to make up for lost time, Fitzgerald said she'll take a patient approach and build her fitness before setting a return date.

"I was a bit nervous before my first trial, but as soon as the gates opened I was sort of put in the zone," Fitzgerald said.

"I forgot about everything and it definitely felt good and definitely felt where I should be.

"It felt good to be back at it and I've been really working on my fitness, trying to build it up.

"I will stick to trials until I think I'm ready to return, do a couple of sets of trials.

"When I do return I'll be taking it slow at first."

Fitzgerald is touted as one of the state's most promising young riders with 31 wins from 343 rides.

In 2020 she was named Racing and Wagering Western Australia's Trainee Of The Year.

Fitzgerald said the wave of support she received from the racing industry after her fall was humbling.

"I've received heaps of support from people," Fitzgerald said.

"I've got so much support behind me, a lot of positive messages.

"I got phone calls from people leading to the trials saying how proud they were of me."

Racing and Sports