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George Baker’s autobiography Taking My Time is a splendidly honest account of his riding career, the devastating fall that ended it and his gradual, painful recovery.

A farrier’s son, George was anything but an overnight success as a jockey, and the majority of the book describes his stop-start progress through the ranks.  In that sense it begins as a fairly typical story, with juvenile escapades, boozy nights out and mistakes when riding or dealing with people.  However, these decrease as maturity and ability begin to assert, and he is sought by more and more leading trainers.

His height and weight limited his opportunities, yet he amply compensated for that with his thoughtful approach to race-riding.  The chapter titled “Secrets of Success” contains some interesting insights, such as the section about getting horses to lead on a particular leg.

Passing the hundred winners a season mark, getting married and riding his first classic winner in the 2016 St Leger showed George’s life was very much on an upward trajectory.  That is, until the brutal fall in a race on the ice at St Moritz in February 2017, which left him at death’s door.  At this point in the book his wife Nicola takes up the story, as Baker’s horrific head injuries were so bad that some periods are blanks in his memory.  Unaware of what he was doing, his erratic behaviour meant that recovery was far from certain.

The latter part of the book takes us into territory beyond that of the normal racing autobiography and gives the reader a frank account of the medical, logistical and emotional struggles to bring the old George back.  The result can be guessed from the title of the final chapter, “A Slightly Changed Man”.

Taking My Time costs £20 and is available from the Racing Post and Rupert Mackeson’s bookstall at various racecourses.

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