Pukekohe harness racing trainer-driver James Stormont will resume his driving duties at Alexandra Park on Friday (August 30) – 49 days after almost losing his life in a race accident at the same venue.
Stormont was cleared by doctors to resume duties last Friday. He has one drive – the Frank Cooney and Tate Hopkins trained Kurahaupo Gambler in race four (7.36pm).
Stormont drove the debutante when qualifying him 4.7 seconds under the required time on at Alexandra Park on May 7.
He also drove him to a neck second behind Cilantro in a workout at ‘The Park’ last Saturday.
“I’m pleased to be back driving again. I’ve had quite a bit going on in my life again and it’s going to be great to be back doing what I love,” Stormont said.
Mitchell was driving the Jeremy Young trained American Angel when he was knocked unconscious on July 12. The 4-year-old hung out just prior to the home turn, clipped the sulky of another horse, and fell abruptly rolling over Stormont.
As stated on national television, Stormont said it was fellow driver Todd Mitchell, who saved his life.
“I owe my life to Todd and the fact that my skull cap took most of impact. I will always be grateful to him for what he did. The fact that I was knocked out also saved me. If I was aware of what was going on I might have been more rigid and fought it. Things may have been a lot different,” Stormont said.
Mitchell managed to release himself from his own sulky and chase after Stormont and stop his uncontrollable horse ploughing into a concrete storm drain.
"I could see him folded up over the sulky bar and I thought he was dead. The cart was upside down and he was like a rag doll,” Mitchell said soon after the accident.
Race stewards later praised Mitchell’s actions.
Stormont said doctors were surprised that he had suffered no dizzy spells or headaches.
“I’m just so pleased my skull cap did its job. I’ve recovered well and in quick time,” he said.
Stormont said accidents like this brought the human side out of the harness racing fraternity.
“I’ve had so many well-wishers both on the phone and those that visited me in Auckland Hospital. It has been really quite humbling. I really appreciated what everyone did for me,” he said.
The 49-year-old said he had been involved in accidents before but this latest one was the most serious.
“I broke bones at Hawera one day and also broke an ankle at Alexandra Park. Even though I don’t remember a single thing this one was by far the most serious.
“You only have one head,” Stormont said.
Stormont has driven 1,106 winners from 10,414 career drives since 1982. He’s also placed 2,041 times and won more than $9.4 million in stakes.
He cracked the century once when saluting the judge 107 times in 1990.
He’s also trained 145 winners ($1.18m) since 1995. His best year was in the 2009-2010 season when he conditioned 18 winners.
By Duane Ranger
Courtesy of Harness Racing New Zealand