RACING / Llewellyn must wait for a National call-up

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The Independent Online
Carl Llewellyn will look back on the 1994-95 season as a campaign during which his regular attire was not riding silks but bedclothes.

After a month out with a foot injury, the 29-year-old jockey returned at Cheltenham last Friday but immediately ran, once more, into the Fates. Following Okeedokee's capsize in a novice hurdle on his first ride back, Llewellyn had an even worse fall whenPercy Thrower fired him into the ground head first.

The stable jockey to Nigel Twiston-Davies suffered two compressed fractures to his sixth vertebra, injuries so serious that he is already struggling to make it back for the Grand National in April.

"Things can change and I will undergo more x-rays today, but at the moment the National is the first big race I can think of coming back for," Llewellyn said yesterday from his now customary position of horizontal in a hospital bed. "It's a hell of blow because I have done well at the Cheltenham Festival, but Liverpool is the more realistic target. It's not a very good end to the year."

Llewellyn has won three races at Cheltenham's main meeting (the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, the Mildmay of Flete and the Ritz Club), but his best ever moment came in the 1992 National, when he partnered Party Politics to success.

Aintree has not always been a memorable course for him, however. Twelve months after his great day, Llewellyn entertained thoughts of a follow-up as Party Politics arrived at the race with much stable confidence behind him as the giant gelding's brittle health had held up. The same, however, could not be said for the Grey Gate tape.

Last year he was due to ride the well-fancied Young Hustler but broke his leg in the build-up to Liverpool. When doctors now pull the jockey's medical record from its sleeve they discover a well-thumbed document. As well as vertebrae and a leg, Llewellynhas broken his left arm, left elbow, both collar-bones, jaw twice, cheekbone and nose eight times.

Peter Scudamore, the former champion jockey and now Twiston-Davies's partner, sympathised with his ex-colleague's predicament. "I feel particularly sorry for Carl," he said." I thought he would be out for just 10 to 12 weeks. Injured jockeys always set themselves targets but sometimes things suddenly come right so they can come back earlier than planned."

The man who will benefit in the meantime is David Bridgwater, who is building himself a reputation as one of the race-track's more forceful exponents. He will continue as Llewellyn's stand-in, while Tom Jenks, the yard's conditional jockey, is certain toget more rides.

The number of rides Declan Murphy is likely to have this season will become apparent tomorrow when the jockey, who suffered a near fatal fall at Haydock in May, makes an announcement about his comeback.

Murphy, who has already had one attempt to regain his riding licence turned down, yesterday received the report of an independent neurologist and is studying the findings to clarify his fitness to return. Tomorrow he will discuss his case with the JockeyClub's chief medical adviser, Dr Michael Turner, and then decide his plans for the rest of the season.

If, as expected, Murphy sits out the remainder of the campaign, the ride on Josh Gifford's Bradbury Star, the favourite for the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, will go to Philip Hide.

nGrouseman, Henrietta Knight's runner in a hurdle race named after her, was allowed to start at the generous odds of 9-2 when leading from start to finish at Exeter yesterday. Knight celebrated her 48th birthday with a 40-1 treble at the track: Edimbourg, Grouseman and Exclusive Edition.

nKelso's meeting today is subject to a 7.30 inspection because of the likelihood of frost.