Brave Cooper relishing fight to reach top
Bryan Cooper has spoken frankly of the harrowing leg break that he suffered at last month's Cheltenham Festival and pinpointed the Listowel Harvest Festival in September as a possible target for his return to the saddle.
The 21-year-old rising star of the weigh-room took a nasty fall at the second-last flight in the Fred Winter Hurdle when Clarcam crashed to the floor.
He was subsequently found to have fractured his right tibia and fibula, with the Turf Club's chief medical officer Dr Adrian McGoldrick describing the injury at the time as "the worst fracture I have ever seen in a lower limb".
It was a compound fracture and there were multiple fragments, all of which led to heightened speculation that Cooper might not ride again or that the severity of the break was such he might even lose his leg.
"It was blown up a bit and a lot of people thought the wrong thing at first," he said.
"It was a bad break. I won't lie – there was a doubt at one stage, but (the doctors) knew once they got it back into place that it was okay. I knew myself that once I got to Gloucestershire Hospital and I got it cleaned out and everything sorted that I was 100 per cent, really.
"It was just a case of having the operation and getting the pin put down through it and they did a great job over there.
"It was a long old week over there, but I had great people looking after me.
"I think I was very, very lucky that it happened over there. I was looked after very well by Dr McGoldrick and the staff in Cheltenham.
"They couldn't have done a better job – from everyone there to Gloucestershire Hospital to Frenchay Hospital in Bristol. I couldn't thank them enough for what they did. I was just very lucky to be in a good place."
Cooper's rapid ascent stalled briefly when he broke his right femur at Down Royal last May.
When he returned in September, he soon gathered momentum again, and his sustained excellence was rewarded when he usurped champion jockey Davy Russell as Gigginstown Stud's first choice rider in the New Year.
Typical of his profession, he conceded that missing out on blue chip mounts, two of which Russell rode to victory in his absence on the last day of the Festival, was a cause of as much pain as the injury itself.
"Obviously it was sore, but the physical pain goes," Cooper explained.
"Once I got the painkillers and everything was held in place, the pain was gone. It's the mental pain more than anything else that you have to worry about.
"I knew straight away that it was broken and I just said to myself, 'not again'. Obviously I had a lot of thoughts going through my head," said the Tralee native.
Cooper admits the quality of horse he has to look forward to on his return provides all the motivation that he needs to stay positive.
Cooper – whose proposed Listowel return would be extra special as it is his local festival – added: "I will be eager to get back and, hopefully, it won't affect me. I am in a very lucky position."