Day At The Track

Determined Danielle is back doing what she loves

10:00 AM 20 Jul 2019 NZST
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Danielle Hill, harness racing
Danielle Hill, enjoying being back at the track

It's testament to the grit of champion South Australian harness racing driver Danielle Hill that there's not a hint of nerves in the leadup to her much-anticipated comeback to race driving at Globe Derby tonight.

It's the second time that Hill has faced a comeback after horrific - potentially career-ending - injury but for the premiere reinswoman there's only excitement about getting back to the sport she loves.

"I'm fine now but I'll probably be a bit edgy when I get there no doubt. I'll settle in though - I'm just excited to be back," Hill said.

"It just all happened really quickly in the end. I've been hoping to get back but the doctors haven't given me the green light. But then this week they just told me that I'm good to go," she said.

"I haven't been to the trials, but I did have a little fast-work test-run there (Globe Derby) mid-week and it felt great. I'm just jumping straight back in!"

Danielle Hill takes the reins for three drives at Adelaide's Globe Derby Park tonight - the same track where five months ago, in the Group Three SA Pacing Derby she suffered a tibial plateau fracture (to the shin and knee) in a sickening crash.

Hill was leading on Im Sir Blake when the pacer choked down and veered out before crashing into Major Exclusive (Darby McGuigan) and leaving Culture King (Paul Cavallaro) with nowhere to go.

The horrific pile up left Hill and Cavallaro seriously injured, Cavallaro with a broken wrist and severe lacerations to his face and Hill requiring surgeons to later insert 12 pins and two plates to repair bones, ligaments and cartilage in her left knee and shin.

In a strange twist of fate, Hill and Cavallaro had been involved in another shocking crash in 2010 at almost the same spot at Globe Derby - on that occasion, Hill was off the scene for an extended period, again with traumatic injuries including a broken jaw and head and facial injuries.

Hill's return to the spider has been no walk in the park with months of rehab needed to strengthen the muscles supporting the damaged bones and ligaments.

"I was hoping for swimming and massages - that would have been nice! The rehab team have been great, but they basically just told me to hit the gym, three days a week, so that's what I've done," Hill said.

"I needed to bear weight and create and strengthen muscles to support a long-term recovery. And strangely enough I've actually turned into a bit of a gym junky.

"It's not something I have ever done before, because with horses you don't really need exercise and let's face it, you don't have the time - but definitely it makes you feel different and stronger and I've really loved it. I'll probably need to keep it up, but that's not a bad thing at all."

Hill and her brother Wayne followed the family trade of harness racing and she shares a passion for horses with her partner, trainer David Harding.

Danielle and Wayne Hill combined to finish second at Mildura yesterday with Robbo

She said being away from the stables was one of the things she found hardest about her layoff.

"It was hard to stay away. You can only watch so much TV and I'm not into just sitting around anyway," she said.

"I had a gopher and I just used to putt around the stables and around the horses and keep up with what was going on.

"People said to me don't you think about getting hurt again, or if something goes wrong, but you just want to get back to it because it's what you love.

"Yes, sure it's in the back of my mind, but I'm not worried about my leg - you can still drive with a prosthesis! It's the head you've got to worry about, and I'll worry about looking after that first.

"But the thing with both of my bad accidents is that they were just that - freak accidents. They were no one's fault and that's part of what we do in our job.

"I hear people every day talking about having to deal with this or that client, or this or that customer, or some terrible workplace. That's not me. I get to come out here and work with these guys - the horses.

"How lucky am I that I can do this for a living? I just can't wait to get back out there."

Hill has won the past three South Australian Driver's premierships, and, at the time of the February incident was a runaway leader for the 2019 title. It took her brother Wayne until June 8 to reel in his sister's lead in the title. Ken Rogers has since claimed the lead with 98 (Hill on 95 - and Danielle will take up where she left off in February, on 82 wins.)

"I've still got time to catch them, don't you reckon?" Hill quipped.

Terry Gange

NewsAlert PR Mildura

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