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Why May 7 is meaningful to Noonan

With Sam Doran

The highs and lows of racing – jockey Jake Noonan knows both.

In his career, one date in particular is forever etched in his memory: May 7.

“I don’t have that date tattooed on my body, but I’ll find a place for it,” Noonan said as he reflected on the events of that date in his life.

“Where do I start? What an important date in my life and, more specifically, in my career.”

WATCH: Noonan’s date with Destiny

On May 7, 2011, Noonan suffered what he describes as a ‘pretty horrific fall’ while working with the Lee Freedman-trained Safe at Flemington.

“I suffered a traumatic brain injury and had over eight months off,” he explained.

But just five years later, that date again became important in Noonan’s life, along with a name: Precious Gem.

“The Precious Gem opportunity came about through a good friend of mine, Matt Jenkins,” said Noonan.

“He was working for Henry (Dwyer) at the time.

“(I) went and did some track work, started building a relationship with him, rode some winners and he said, ‘Look, you can ride her first in the Hareeba’.

“She ran second, (I was) lucky enough to keep the ride on her, won a Listed race and then Henry said, ‘We’re going to freshen her up and focus her on Group 1 mares and mares against her own gender.’ ‘, which would give her the best chance to try to improve her pedigree.”

That Group 1 was The Robert Sangster Stakes, held at Morphettville Racecourse on May 7, 2016 – five years after Noonan’s fall.

“I actually went into Sangster Day quite cool, calm and collected. I was riding on the track for Henry that morning,” he said.

“I was joking behind the fences. It was a Group 1 – I was focused but I just went in cool, calm and collected and I think that was the kind of ride I gave her.

“I got all the splits, followed the right horses, got the splits at the right time.”

But the shout as they crossed the line: ‘Precious Gem, Sheidel, tight’! reflects Noonan’s own questions about whether he had secured victory at that moment.

“I remember I stopped and Michelle Payne asked me, ‘Have you gotten there?’ I thought ‘I’m not sure’, but I looked up at the sky, being an Irish Catholic Christian, I thought ‘God, if you’re there, if you’re with me right now, just give me the picture’ because I just need a little bit of luck to come my way.

“I came back and saw a big picture of me on the big screen.”

Noonan describes the feeling as “not so much relief, just excitement.”

“You couldn’t write that date, May 7, better for me and the influence and impact it has had on my life,” Noonan said.

“You can see pictures of Dad looking at me as he lies on the grass, on May 7, 2011, and thinking, ‘Is he still alive? Will he make it? What kind of condition will he be in?’

“To think that five years later I was celebrating the biggest victory of my career.”