‘As soon as I was allowed on the track I ran to him’


Jessica Gulrich and Ballyoptic reunited after his fall at Wetherby

RACEGOERS at Wetherby on Saturday, along with viewers of Racing UK and Channel 4, were afforded an emotional glimpse of the close bond that exists between racehorses and the grooms who care for them.

A tearful but beaming Jessica Gulrich was seen leading Ballyoptic past the stands after a crunching last-flight fall that had resulted in the screens being erected and had many fearing the worst.

Gulrich, who is from Germany and has been with Ballyoptic’s trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies for four years, reflected on an emotional day:

It’s a bad sign when the screens go up and so I thought he could be dead. So my first thought when I got down to him was, ‘Thank God, he’s alive’.

I watched the race on the big screen with all the other grooms and I feared the worst. As soon as I was allowed on the track I ran to him, as any of us would have done, and I was so happy he was alive.

We got the saddle off him and also the crossed noseband, and we poured water over him. It was his first fall and he was in a bit of a shock so needed time. He was a long time on the ground, and so I was really happy when he got up.

He’s a little bit stiff now, as he would be, but he went out in the field and all is good. He’ll be okay.


Gulrich in happier surroundings with Belmount at Carlise on Sunday

  PICTURE: John Grossick (racingpost.com/photos)  

I’ve been in England only four years, but with horses all my life. It’s mainly Flat horses at home in Germany, but I was with Christian von der Recke and so I knew something of the jumping world here.

I came here because my height made it a struggle on the young Flat horses and I thought I’d have more opportunity here.

I had Ballyoptic straight away when he came last year from Ireland and so it’s my second season with him. He can be a little bit strong on the gallops but is a really nice horse and lovely to lead up.

If you work with horses you love them, and I love all of my horses. I look after Cogry, Belmount, Kerisper and Templehills, and also have two of my own horses, an ex-racehorse of Nigel’s I do a bit of showjumping on, and a 25-year-old eventer.

I think of my grooming horses the same as my own two horses, and look after then as if they belong to me. I know they aren’t mine, but it feels like it to me.

They’re all different but I love them all the same. I’m like a mother with six or seven children. They’re all special and they’re all different. Some are more difficult than others, but I love them the same and treat them all as special in different ways.


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