“Commentating is a great outlet that keeps me in the game. I probably wouldn’t even watch the races while I’m not riding, but because I am down there in the thick of it, it’s great.” - Corey Brown
Dual Melbourne Cup-winning jockey Corey Brown has barely been off the back of a horse for 30 years. After a fall in June last year in the Group 1 Queensland Derby, Brown has been forced to hang up his riding boots for a while. The period of rehabilitation has opened doors to new opportunities, which he is taking on with gusto.
Corey Brown has always thought that when his riding career had eventually finished, he might end up on television talking about the sport he loves. He just wasn’t expecting it to happen so quickly. At age 43, Brown has been practically riding every day of his life since he was 14. So to suddenly have this taken away following a nasty fall in June 2019, was frustrating and shocking.
“I just love racing. I know nothing different. One of the surgeons who has worked with me and my injury said he couldn’t fathom how I’d want to go back on a horse, but I can’t help but want to. The adrenalin rush you get in big races is indescribable, and I suppose you have to experience it to understand it.”
Fracturing his T7 vertebrae in the fall, Brown has two plates and eight screws holding his spine together. A recent check-up with his spinal specialist has revealed that although the spine is mending and is on the improve, the injury is not healing as quickly as hoped, meaning Brown will be out of the saddle for about another six months. “The two rods and the screws all come out of my spine in June, and I can’t ride with them in,” he said, having just left the specialist’s office. “If it looks ok and starts fusing well, I may be able to get on horseback for some trackwork around Christmas, but I’ll definitely be holding off racing for a while.”
On the days that Brown feels particularly despondent about his injuries and change of lifestyle, he remembers how lucky he was. “I realise it could have been a lot worse, and I think of my mate Tye Angland, who is an inspiration.” Angland is now a quadriplegic and in a wheelchair after sustaining injuries in a fall in Hong Kong in November 2018. Both jockeys have played to their strengths though, becoming part of the Channel Seven racing commentating team last spring.
With their experience as riders invaluable when assessing the contenders, it is a role that Brown has taken to wholeheartedly, alongside a similar one at Racing.com.
“Commentating is a great outlet that keeps me in the game. I probably wouldn’t even watch the races while I’m not riding, but because I am down there in the thick of it, it’s great.”
His unique point of view is an asset, and while it is strange being on the other side of the fence, Brown finds it interesting analysing it in a different way. “I couldn’t tell you the last time I went to the races as a spectator, and it felt surreal being at the Lexus Melbourne Cup when I’d won (in 2017 with Rekindling). It has also forced me to study the form – something I didn’t do a lot when riding. As I knew the horses I was riding back to front, and because I am a ‘feel’ jockey, meaning I just get a feel for what the horse is doing, I never took much notice of the form. I had to study for three weeks before the spring, and even my wife commented she had never seen me look at it so much!”
Reading the form is not the only thing that has changed for Brown while he is recovering. His whole routine has been shaken up, and that has taken some adjusting for him and his family.
“I went from riding trackwork every morning before getting in the sauna for a few hours and then going off to race. Now, I’m getting out of bed and just having breakfast ... which means my suits are getting quite tight! I do have rehabilitation exercises to do, but these are things like Pilates and swimming. They are slow and gentle exercises, as my back is still quite uncomfortable.”
One thing he does miss is the jockeys’ room. “I miss the comradery and seeing my mates every day. It was strange to suddenly not be there as my life was uprooted so quickly.” Luckily, he does see them through the commentary job, though he fears his honesty may have rubbed a few of his fellow riders the wrong way. “I’ve said a few things that some jockeys weren’t happy with, but that’s my job at the moment!” he laughs.
Life has slowed down considerably for Brown, who was hardly ever at home when riding. The timing isn’t all bad though, with one of his three daughters set to have a baby in July, making Brown a young and energetic grandfather, with time on his hands to babysit!
Corey’s stellar career so far
49 Group 1 wins, including his Melbourne Cup triumphs on Shocking in 2009 and Rekindling in 2017
Five Group 1 victories in a row aboard Apache Cat
Five winners at a meeting, twice
Total of 2467 career wins