Biggest supporter puts Norvall back on track

Rogan Norvall and Veyron on their way to beating Shez Sinsational in the 2012 Gr. 1 Zabeel Classic at Ellerslie.

Rogan Norvall and Veyron on their way to beating Shez Sinsational in the 2012 Gr. 1 Zabeel Classic at Ellerslie.

It comes as no surprise that Rogan Norvall’s first comeback ride should be for Cambridge trainer Linda Laing and that it will be at Ellerslie.

Norvall has been off the raceday scene since a horrific barrier injury at Te Aroha last April, but was back riding at the trials for the first time at Cambridge last Tuesday and now he’s set to resume at Ellerslie on Saturday.

He will ride the Laing-trained Neala in the final event, the www.warriors.kiwi 2100, and he’s excited to finally be back in the thick of the raceday action.

“I rode a Rip Van Winkle colt for Shelley Hale at the trials and it was great to be out there,” said Norvall. “I’m happy to be back. It put a smile on my face.

“Now I’m looking forward to riding Neala on Saturday for Linda. She (Laing) has been by biggest supporter and I’m so grateful to her for giving me my first ride back.

“Neala is stepping up over ground and should make a good account of herself.”

Norvall had been Neala’s regular rider before his injury and had ridden her to the second of her two wins, at Te Aroha last April, just 11 days before he was sidelined with injury on the same track.

On April 20 last year Norvall had his leg crushed against the back of the barriers when his mount, Livingston, suddenly backed out of his stall when being loaded for the NZB Pearl Series 1600. He suffered a compound fracture of his tibia, a spiral fracture of his fibia, and a break behind the left knee.

He underwent surgery to have a rod inserted into the injured leg and it has been a long, gradual recovery to get back into the saddle.

“I’ve been riding trackwork for nearly six weeks,” he said. “I’ve been riding work for Linda, Shaune Ritchie and Shelley and doing up to nine or 10 a morning.

“You can only do so much at the gym. Nothing can beat getting out there and working horses. Luckily they had some quiet ones I could start off with and I’ve stepped up from there.”

Norvall has purposely ridden in jumpouts and the trial before taking his comeback raceday ride.

“I wanted to hold out until I had the jumpouts and the trials ride,” he said. “I know it was a freak accident what happened to me, but I wanted to make sure I was 100 per cent ready to ride again. I’m confident I am.

“I was a little bit rusty in the trial and I’ll probably have a good blow after the race on Saturday but I can’t wait to get out there again. It’s what I want to do.”

Making the comeback at Ellerslie on a Laing runner will bring back some fond memories for Norvall.

It was on the same track on the Laing-trained Veyron that he celebrated his three Group One wins. The combination won the 2011 and 2012 Gr.1 Easter Handicaps and also the 2012 Gr.1 Zabeel Classic.

Norvall rode Veyron in 30 of his 40 starts for 10 wins and 10 placings, while he was sidelined when Leith Innes rode him three times for two wins, including the Gr.1 Waikato Draught Sprint, and Mark Hills was aboard twice when winning the Gr.1 Otaki-Maori WFA and finishing second in the Gr.1 NZ Stakes.

Norvall also got to ride Veyron a couple of times in Sydney, while Christian Reith had the mount when winning the Gr.2 Warwick Stakes and finishing third in the Gr.1 George Main Stakes.

“I’m so grateful the owner put me on for so long thanks to Linda batting in my corner to keep me on,” said Norvall. “I need to find another one like Veyron and hope I can keep riding it.”

Norvall has won 20 races for Laing, the latest being a sentimental one on Memories Only at Rotorua a week before his injury. One thing is for sure,  there will be no shortage of fans hoping the popular horseman can make it 21 on Saturday.