Sam Clenton had to get back to what she loved. If she had listened to her doctors or partner Tim McIntosh she wouldn’t be riding at Randwick on Saturday.
Clenton was NSW's top apprentice in 2015-16 but her career appeared over in 2016 when a fall at Taree, where she broke a collarbone, was followed by breaking her back at Scone. The latter injury required metal rods to stabilise her spine.
"That was nearly three years ago. You're not supposed to come back from that," Clenton said.
She crushed six vertebrae in the Scone fall and had surgery to fuse three vertebrae and had two metal rods added.
The surgeon told her you “should have been in a wheelchair. You shouldn’t be able to walk” when he saw how close the T6 had come to her spinal cord.
“I had only been back riding six weeks when I had that fall [at Scone] and I thought, 'Well, that’s it',” Clenton said. “Two bad ones so close together makes it hard to come back.”
Clenton admitted she became a “lounge potato” after the fall and with partner McIntosh, who is a trainer, had a son, Issac, who is 17 months now, but the call of riding was strong.
“I would poke around the stables and started riding work after having the little fella,” Clenton said. “It was about eight months ago and I was looking after all our horses at the time because Tim was working for Todd Howlett.
“I took them to Newcastle to jump out one morning and that morning Kris [Lees] approached me to come back and ride work for him.
“It was something that was always there. Once riding is in your blood you know nothing else.”
Clenton took the opportunity to ride Tuesday and Thursday mornings for Lees and started to ride barrier trials again. She didn't rush back.
She loves being a mother but the call to race riding led to her sitting down with McIntosh. They discussed passion v risks.
“There were a lot of heated arguments," Clenton said. "He wasn’t all for it - because of the risks. I understand that, I get it.
"What happens if I have another fall?
“But at the end of the day you have to do what you love and I can only do this for a few more years.
“I have the little fella as well and would love to have another. But I felt like I had unfinished business riding. I would love to outride my metro claim and that’s a goal I have now.”
The apprentice has been back race riding for just over a month and the winners have flowed. Nine of them from just over 50 rides and when she got booked to ride Turnberry for Lees on the Kensington track, the offers came, taking her book to six.
“I thought I would just be riding in the country and Newcastle. To have six rides in town, so quickly, is unbelievable,” Clenton said. “When I came back from my falls it was alway a bit slow but things have happened quickly this time.”
McIntosh has been supportive and has become trainer and stay-at-home dad, as Clenton rides around the state.
“He has been a massive support looking after Issac while still doing our horses,” Clenton said. “It makes it easier for me to ride.
“Kris has also been great. I started two days a week and now it is five days a week.
“It is nowhere near what I used to do but he is really understanding and he knows I’m a mother now and I have to juggle that as well.”
Clenton already has a city winner since returning, Milseain, but is hoping to add a Saturday win from her strong book of rides.
“I did plenty of trials for Kris for a couple of months and that helped. But that didn’t get me fit. I’m still getting fit [in terms of riding],” Clenton said.
“Nothing gets you match fit like riding. It is about being sharp.
“Every day I do get better and hopefully I can get a winner on Saturday. It would be like winning a group race to me."
Turnberry, who she won a Provincial Championship heat on at her ninth ride back, is perhaps the best of the book
“Turnberry for Kris will be hard to beat. His last run was the Provincial Championship Final where he was wide and still kept finding the line. He is very honest," she said.
“I really liked the win of Je Suis Tycoon at Newcastle last time for Cee Jay Graham. He is up to a Highway, but is a backmarker, so he will have to have things go his way.
"I rode Tougherthantherest at Randwick last time and he is going to be fitter and will be finding the line as well."
Article courtesy of Nine and The Brisbane Times