Day At The Track

May planning his return to the track

08:24 AM 11 Mar 2020 NZDT
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Ricky May

Ricky May is determined his career in the sulky is "not going to end like that".

The "that" May doesn't want to be the final act of his storied harness racing driving career was almost also the final act of his life.

Racing viewers Australasia-wide were stunned when May collapsed lifeless in the sulky when leading the Central Otago Cup driving A G's White Socks on January 2.

When he fell to the track, the racing world held its breath.

 

May's heart stopped without warning, his official diagnosis later being hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy.

He lay motionless on the Omakau track, receiving CPR from junior driver Ellie Barron and was soon after treated by medics.

But when the 61-year-old woke up in Dunedin Hospital two days later doctors told him he had probably been dead for 10 minutes that day.

A few days later he had surgery to have a cardioverter defibrillator implanted, a device that delivers a shock through a wire which runs into a chamber of the heart and May will have it in his chest for the rest of his life in case his heart stops again.

But two months on from that operation May hasn't needed the defibrillator yet and is hoping he never will.

"The doctors told me if it was going to happen again it would most likely be in the first two months," May told the Herald. "So I am now going to get on with my life.

"I feel good, almost back to normal. I have a few aches and pains from the fall and the operation but my energy levels are good."

May is back working on his Methven farm but last week he started back at his other job. He jumped in the sulky and drove fast work.

"It was good to do it again, but I was a little tentative just at the start," says the man who has won seven New Zealand Cups.

"The doctors say I can go back to driving but they are a bit worried about the shaking and vibrations that can go through the body on a rougher surface.

"So ideally they have said to start out slow and if possible maybe wait six months before I go back to race driving."

So that is what May is planning to do. He admits he might be lured back earlier but at this stage he plans to be back driving in races next season, which starts August 1.

"I want to be careful for a while and to be honest I wouldn't have too many good drives coming up in the next few months.

"And I don't mind missing the winter racing," he laughs.

But May will 100 per cent, as much as any of us can predict our futures, be back.

"I have to go back to it because I can't let what happened be the way it ends. That wouldn't sit comfortably with me."

The next great goal is obvious for a man who has driven 2949 winners in his domestic career.

Joining Tony Herlihy and Maurice McKendry as the only 3000-win horsepeople (drivers or jockeys) in New Zealand is an honour May deserves.

"I can go back to driving any time I want now, once I get a medical certificate which shouldn't be a problem. But I will wait and do it right. But I will be back. I am looking forward to getting back out there."

 

Michael Guerin

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