News & Events

Cooney starting long road back at home

By Michael Guerin

That Ann Cooney understands only too well what her injured husband Frank is going through proves just how dangerous horse racing can be.

Harness racing driver Frank Cooney is recovering in his West Auckland home after a freak accident in a race at Alexandra Park last Friday, one which saw him placed in an induced coma over the weekend. He returned home on Wednesday “because it is quieter than the Intensive Care Unit,” says Ann.

“But he still sleeps a lot and doesn’t retain a lot of memory since the accident.

“And like a lot of people with head injuries he gets headaches and doesn’t like the light in his eyes.”

Ann is speaking from experience, the sort of experience shared by many in the racing industry.

Racehorses are big, fast, unpredictable animals. Put 12 of them together in a competitive situation and it is a miracle there are not more serious racing accidents.

But most drivers or jockeys experience at least one serious accident during their career, plenty of them on training tracks far from the public glare.

I know all about it,” says Ann.

“I had my first bad spill up at the Kumeu track 30 years ago and that left me with delayed concussion.

“And then about 27 years ago I was driving in a race at Alexandra Park and fell and that left me with a head injury.

“The one up side of that is I can understand what Frank is going through, because unless you have had a head injury it can be a bit hard to comprehend what they are going through.”

  Cooney’s latest scan confirms he suffered two brain bleeds in Friday’s fall and doctors told him he may not be able to drive horses, or even a car, for up to six months.

“We are hoping that prognosis improves over time because that is his job and we still have horses to work otherwise Frank doesn’t get paid.

“Hopefully that is where ACC kicks in, to help us pay for some staff, because as a horse trainer your ACC levies are enormous.”

Frank can not remember Friday’s accident but still remembers exactly what each horse in his stable needs to do for work this week and what they did last week. And he is guaranteed a training win at Alexandra Park tonight because his stable star Let’s Elope is in a one-horse non-tote race, part of the qualifying process for the Australasian Breeders Crown.

With Cooney sidelined he has entrusted Let’s Elope to champion horseman Barry Purdon for that Australian  series, with Todd MacFarlane to do the driving.

“Frank was telling me yesterday to get his driving helmet, which he damaged in the accident, fixed so he can go out and drive him.

“But that’s just the head injury talking, we know he won’t be driving anything for a while.”

The Cooneys were supposed to leave on Sunday for a holiday in Tahiti but instead of chasing the sun they will be avoiding it until the headaches improve.

“But we realise it could have been a lot, lot worse.”