BENDIGO jockey John Keating says he is 'refreshed, fit and healthy, and eager' ahead of his return to race riding this weekend.
Keating will make his long-awaited comeback at Echuca, after being sidelined for nearly five months following a horrific fall at Wangaratta on April 24.
The 47-year-old suffered fractures to his T4 and T7 vertebrae as well as a high neck fracture and collarbone injury, after falling from the victorious Bonfire Gold just after the winning post.
Hopes a return was not too far away were bolstered when Keating returned to trackwork last month.
"I've had to jump through a few hoops to get back, but every hoop they've put in front of me I've managed to jump through," said an excited Keating, who has four rides at Echuca.
"I've been back at trackwork now for four weeks, the body is handling it really well.
"I'm up to working a lot of horses now."
Keating has been doing the bulk of his trackwork for Shaun Dwyer and Adam O'Neill, and has also been making regular trips to Sutton Grange to ride for 2018 Bendigo Cup-winning trainer Brent Stanley.
He nominated the Stanley-trained Battleborn and O'Neill galloper Danubian as the pick of his return rides, albeit both will require some luck.
"I've drawn the car park on both of them and they will need a bit of luck in running to negotiate those draws" he said.
"The other two are rough chances too, so I'm happy with what I've come back with.
"Danubian won last start and is stepping up from a maiden grade to a (benchmark) 58. She will need a touch of luck in the running from that wide draw - a few things will have to fall in place, but all going well we will be thereabouts in the finish."
The five-year-old mare made its way to O'Neill's stable on the recommendation of Keating, and is part-owned by the jockey's wife Desiree and members of her family.
Her last start win at Benalla on September 2 was only her fourth start for O'Neill and the new ownership group.
"I have been working her in trackwork since and she is still holding her form," he said.
Keating will return the scene of his fall next Tuesday, where he has a few rides booked for Dwyer at Wangaratta.
"Basically as a jockey these days you only get holidays when you are suspended or injured," he said.
"I've had a holiday. It wasn't much fun through the first bit, but once my body started to feel okay again, I was able to do most things you do around the house.
"I've come away from it well."
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