Racing: Hard graft and the will to win: Candy Morris is back in the saddle after a remarkable recovery from injury. Richard Edmondson reports

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The Independent Online
WIN No 142 of the season arrived for Lanfranco Dettori at Folkestone yesterday and with it came the familiar piano-key grin. For once, however, the Italian was outdone in the happiness stakes.

Candy Morris may have finished fourth of seven in one race and 20 lengths last in another, but these days it is difficult to budge a smile from her face. Less than a year ago, the 29-year-old's career looked at an end when she fell into a baler at the paper-shredding premises of her husband, Bill, and suffered a mangled leg.

By April, however, she was back in the saddle and on Saturday rehabilitation was completed when she rode the 36th winner of her career.

For almost everyone, the 10-furlong Reigate Selling Handicap at Lingfield will not go down as a milestone in the history of the turf. However, for Charlie Moore, Candy Morris's father, Kentavrus Way's victory was the most significant of his training career.

That day, he had the handkerchief out to mask his feelings. Candy felt she had to hide hers without any material help. 'He was emotional, bless him,' she said. 'I would have been too, but you can't be soft with these boys around.'

This attitude is no surprise because the Moores are a tough bunch. Charlie, whose talent-contest rendition of 'My Yiddisha Mamma' on the Palace Pier is part of Brighton lore, has always dealt in vehicles with plenty on the clock. A former second-hand car salesman, he has survived over 20 years with a training licence represented largely by horses with the mileage of the Pony Express fleet.

Candy Morris needed the family hardiness after her accident. 'I remember falling into the machine and the baler chopping away at my leg,' she said. 'I lost the tissue, the muscle, the ligaments below the right knee and there was one clean break and a shattered break of the leg. Someone said they would call the fire brigade to cut me out.'

It was at this point that Candy knew she was in real trouble. 'I told them not to damage the machine,' she said. 'Billy would have gone mad. I insisted they dismantled it instead.'

On release, the stricken jockey ignored the steeplejack's maxim of never looking down. 'I thought I was trapped because I was pulling and the leg wasn't coming out,' she said. 'But the leg was free and the only reason it didn't move was because there was no connection, everything was dead.

'All I could see was a red training shoe, a red sock and red newspapers. I didn't look any more after that.'

The subsequent operation involved borrowing bits from elsewhere on the body, including a muscle from the back, which, biologically, is about as much use as an appendix. 'They said I didn't really need it up there and they were right,' Candy said. 'They also skin-grafted a thin sliver that came from my backside down to the thigh.'

Cosmetically, this did not please the owner, though the surgery was most successful in terms of function. 'Normally it looks like a lump of steak has just been slapped on the leg, but mine took really well,' she said. 'I don't think it looks that good, but they say it's a very neat job.'

Nevertheless, a return to competition seemed remote. 'In hospital I was in a room with my eyes closed and all my family round me,' Candy said. 'The doctor thought I was asleep and he told them I wouldn't race-ride again and there was only a possibility I could pleasure-ride.'

The jockey's first abortive return to the saddle in February suggested this prognosis was correct. 'That first day I felt dreadful and I was going to forget it,' she said. 'I didn't ride with confidence and I was frightened to put my leg near the horse, even though I was well padded up.' As the legs perform a general's function for a jockey, issuing the main instructions to the racehorse, the omens were not good.

But then came another example of Moore fortitude. 'That night I made my mind up to give it a better shot and they didn't recognise me the next day,' Morris said. 'Three weeks on I was back riding out normally.'

Her mind was never going to be completely clear, though, until a winner came, which made celebration a secondary sentiment on Saturday. 'I was relieved more than anything else, because until I had that winner I'm sure there were people who was saying that I was saving myself in races. They didn't say it to my face but I knew what they were thinking.

'I know in the end it was only a little seller at Lingfield, but to me it meant the world.'

(Photograph omitted)

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