MINERAL SPRINGS – The first race of the 2017 Queen’s Cup Steeplechase is one ride jockey Michael Mitchell will never forget.
At least the parts the 27-year-old British-born jockey can remember.
As the horses were approaching the final jump, Mitchell took a spill at the last fence. It looked like a normal fall, if there is such a thing in steeplechasing. But the horse Mitchell was riding had a trailing hind leg swing around and catch him on the side of his face and jaw.
Mitchell laid on the course at Brooklandwood Race Course just outside of Waxhaw unconscious. After quickly being attended to by emergency personnel, Mitchell was taken to a hospital in Waxhaw before being airlifted to a hospital in Charlotte.
Mitchell had a broken eye socket and cheekbone, his jaw was shattered and he had suffered a concussion. The road back to racing looked like a long and hard one.
It was hard, but it wasn’t long.
Mitchell had surgery on May 2, 2017 to insert a metal plate around his eye socket, and his jaw would be wired shut for several weeks.
But almost three months to the day after the accident, Mitchell saddled up at the Saratoga Race Course and rode Swansea Mile to victory in his first race after his fall in Mineral Springs.
“It was great to come back,” Mitchell said. “I felt good on how I was progressing. It was nice, it was satisfying.”
Mitchell will be back in the saddle in Mineral Springs on April 28, when he will compete in the 23rd annual Queen’s Cup Steeplechase at Brooklandwood. The Queen’s Cup is one of the top sporting and social events in the Southeast. Gates will open at 10 a.m. April 28. The first race is at 1:30 p.m.
Mitchell, to say the least, is looking forward to his return to the Queen’s Cup. Mitchell didn’t want to talk much about the accident only to say, “I remember the first part of the race.’’ Mitchell, instead, wanted to talk about all the support he received while he recovered from his injuries.
The National Steeplechase Association has The Steeplechase Fund that provides help to jockeys. Jockeys are required to have insurance and the NSA has blanket insurance coverage against catastrophic injuries but not all expenses are covered while a jockey is not racing.
The Steeplechase Fund fills the gaps in reimbursements and provides continuing assistance on an as-needed basis.
“It was a huge help,” Mitchell said. “When you are not racing and out riding, it is kind of tough. It took a lot of pressure off of me. I was able to get back in shape without any pressure.”
NSA president Guy Torsilieri said that Mitchell also received a lot of help locally.
“To be certain, many others assisted in Michael’s recovery,” Torsilieri said. “Carrington Price, the Queen’s Cup co-chair, took a leading role, and she was assisted by husband Bill, Wendy Kingsley, and Kevin Tobin, among others. They all have our thanks for stepping up and helping Michael get back on his feet.”
The purse for the five races on April 28 totals $150,000 with the featured race being the Queen’s Cup MPC Chase at 2:40 p.m. The third race is presented by Sonitrol and is run in the memory of longtime Queen’s Cup supporter Molly Parker Crosland (MPC) and covers 2 3/8 miles with a purse of $75,000.
The Queen’s Cup purse ranks in the top five on the NSA circuit and some of the top jockeys, trainers and horses will make the trip to Union County. The winner of the feature race will cash a check for $45,000.
“It’s in the top five as far as quality of racing and fees,” said Tobin, Queen’s Cup director of business development. “The best of the best come down here. It won’t be a bad afternoon if you pocket $45,000.”
At A Glance
23rd Annual Queen’s Cup Steeplechase
• When: April 28. Gates Open at 10 a.m.
• Where: Grounds of Brooklandwood Race Course, Mineral Springs, N.C.
•Tickets: General Admission starting at $50; Tailgating starting at $150.
10 a.m.-2:30 p.m. – Pony Rides for Kids
10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. – Jack Russell Terrier Races
11 a.m.-11:45 a.m. – Racecourse Jockey Walk
11:45 a.m. – Hat Contest
12 p.m. – Tailgating Contest
12:30 p.m. – Opening Ceremonies
Races start at 1:30, 2:05, 2:40, 3:15 and 4 p.m.
Hot Walk Party featuring music by KingDaddy. Free hors-d’oeuvres, cash bar.
Gates close at 7 p.m.
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