Take the northbound tube from Harrow-on-the-Hill through the area once dubbed Metro-land, a journey described eloquently in Sir John Betjeman’s 1973 documentary of the same name, and you are transported from the suburbs to the countryside in a matter of minutes.

The Metropolitan line terminates – or begins, depending on your point of view – in Buckinghamshire at its northern branch and it is here, in the leafy surroundings of Chalfont St Giles, that Brian Toomey has settled into a new life as he takes his first steps on the training ladder at Bowstridge Farm.

For Toomey, 34, the picturesque yard, previously occupied by Martin Bosley, really represents pastures new, the latest chapter in a story that at one point seemed certain to fall into the abridged category following a shocking fall at Perth in 2013. More on that later.

On this chilly January afternoon, the trainer, who moved in only in October, enthuses over the challenge ahead as he gives a tour of the facilities, which include an indoor school, six-furlong gallop and a two-and-a-half-furlong canter loop, plus a schooling strip.

“Oisin [Murphy] has already been down here and was very impressed,” says Toomey, promptly showing a video on his phone of the three-time champion jockey praising the amenities. “It’s a beautiful spot and so relaxing for the horses.”

I ask how the location compares to Croom in County Limerick, Toomey’s home village where he first fell in love with horses, despite not coming from a racing background.

“There’s more wildlife here,” he responds, suddenly pointing out two deer, almost completely hidden, nestled at the bottom of one of the paddocks. “They are there every morning when I’m going up the gallop. They’re becoming like pets.”

Growing up on a dairy farm, a career in horseracing was not initially in the script for Toomey but the passion soon took hold – the Flavins, a famous Irish racing family, were neighbours – and after taking riding lessons his father brought him a point-to-pointer, which he rode and trained with some success.

Toomey’s mother, a nurse, worked at the same hospital as trainer Brian Meehan’s father Conor, a top surgeon. They arranged for the young man to move to England to work for Brendan Powell, who was then renting Meehan’s yard in Lambourn, having achieved his Leaving Cert aged 18.

“They thought it was a good idea to come over as Brendan was using conditional jockeys at the time,” Toomey explains. “I spent a couple of years with Brendan, rode a couple of winners, then went to Donald McCain.

“I won on some decent horses in the north of England, including [future Stayers’ Hurdle winner] Cole Harden, and made a few contacts.

“You go through your career wondering why you’re not getting the opportunities that others have, and you do feel hard done by because you rate yourself as having more ability than the next lad.

“I was just a handful of winners away from losing my claim when I had my accident at the age of 23.”

‘Miracle man’

The word accident doesn’t – cannot – convey the seriousness of what happened at Perth racecourse on July 4, 2013. Toomey, riding favourite Solway Dandy in a handicap hurdle for conditional riders, took a crashing fall three out.

What followed will be well known to many racing fans, but the jockey had to be resuscitated after losing consciousness – he was clinically dead for around seven seconds – and estimates on his survival chances were as low as 3% after he sustained life-threatening head injuries.

Toomey spent two weeks in an induced coma at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee and was in hospital for over five months in total. Swelling on the brain meant that part of his skull had to be removed. The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) even penned a statement on behalf of then Chief Executive Paul Bittar, lamenting his death.

And yet, amazingly, 738 days after the fall, the jockey dubbed ‘Miracle man’ was back on a racehorse, riding Kings Grey over hurdles at Southwell, having convinced the BHA’s doctors he was good to go. On reflection, it wasn’t the right call from either party.

“I put a project together to detail other sportsmen and women that got back after suffering serious injuries,” Toomey says. “But how could I be at no greater risk than AP McCoy or any other jockeys? I’d lost consciousness and had a metal plate in my head.”

The comeback was short-lived. Most owners and trainers, unsurprisingly, were unwilling to put him up on their runners. The episode also scuppered a lucrative pay-out from the scheme covering jockeys who have suffered career-ending injuries.

Toomey knows better than most the risks attached to National Hunt racing. In Ireland he rode out for his distant cousin, JT McNamara, at his pre-training yard. McNamara – “his talent in point-to-points was unbelievable” – was an outstanding amateur rider who was paralysed in a fall at the 2013 Cheltenham Festival and died three years later.

JT’s cousin, Robbie McNamara, was also left paralysed after a fall at Wexford in 2015.

Nothing to prove

It begs the question – why even try and return to the saddle after everything he knew and had been through?

“I had nothing to prove,” Toomey states. “But I hadn’t reached that point where I’d ridden a big winner. That was something I wanted to achieve.

“I didn’t get that big winner, but I’d come home after riding a horse like Cole Harden and I’d be beaming – that would keep the drive going for a very long time.

“After I’d ridden a winner, I was always hoping people would see it and give me opportunities. I thought I was one of the best conditional jockeys around – why wouldn’t I get a chance if a trainer’s regular rider was out with a broken collarbone? The biggest thing in racing is hope.

“If I hadn’t come back, I would have got that insurance money. But on the other hand, it’s given me the drive that I can achieve my goal. No one thought I would be allowed to return, let alone ride again.”

So how does Toomey reflect on the fall and injury, which has changed the direction of his life so dramatically?

“People go through things in their life that they have to overcome. It was just something that happened to me. I’m glad I was only 23 when I had the injury because I’m still young, fit, and ambitious.

“I probably didn’t deal with everything that happened after in the best way, including some of the decisions I made, but it wasn’t because of the injury, more that I was young and trying to rush things.”

With his career as a professional jockey over, Toomey embarked on a path towards training, spending a year as assistant to Dr Richard Newland – “the way he did things was very simple but it was good system” – and taking all the necessary courses.

He says: “This has been my goal for the last six or seven years. I was always doing something in that time to get me a step closer to taking out my licence.

How come I’ve never heard of this place?

“It hasn’t happened as quickly as I wanted but I’m doing this all off my own back without major finances.

“When I heard that Martin was retiring, I got in touch and asked to look at the yard. When I drove up to the gates, I thought ‘wow – how come I’ve never heard of this place?’”

Bowstridge Farm is owned by the Carey family, who are involved in the construction industry and have had many horses in training over the years, including with Michael Hourigan in Ireland. The relationship between trainer and landlord is working well.

“When I had my first winner they came over with a bottle of champagne,” Toomey says, smiling. “They’re excited about my business growing.

“The family are very thoughtful and supportive – it makes me more comfortable, knowing that they’re there for me, and they can see how much I’m putting into it.

“I know other people were interested in the yard so it’s a big deal to get the opportunity here. They’ve been racing with us when we’ve had a runner and I couldn’t wish for better landlords.”

They treated me like a friend

That first win, five days before Christmas, was provided by Wake Up Harry, a gelding owned by Harry Redknapp, now recognised as much for his on exploits on reality television – he was crowned ‘King of the Jungle’ on I’m A Celebrity in 2018 – as his career in top-flight football as a player and manager.

Toomey says: “The win meant a lot to me because of the owner’s kindness and support. When I was saying two years that I wanted to start training, he was always at the other end of the phone.

“A year after I first met him, he invited me down to his place in Sandbanks and we just hung out for the day along with his wife, Sandra. They treated me like a friend.”

Wake Up Harry’s victory had added poignancy as it meant that Toomey’s father, Johnny, was able to watch his son succeed in his new venture just weeks before he died in the early hours of the New Year.

“My mother facetimed me the day after Harry won and I spoke to my father face to face,” Toomey says. “He suffered badly with Parkinson’s and MS and was in bad health, but my dad got to see my first winner [as a trainer] before he passed away at 3 o’clock on New Year’s morning.”

In addition to Redknapp’s support, others to have sent horses to Toomey include Kia Joorabchian, the man behind Amo Racing, and Dundee-based owner Jimmy Fyffe.

The link with Joorabchian came about by chance. Having watched an Amo horse, Remarkable Force, go through the ring at Tattersalls unsold, trainer Alice Haynes told Toomey to call the owner directly if he wanted to fund out more. So he did.

“Kia had enjoyed a big winner the week before with King Of Steel,” Toomey says. “He knew who I was having seen me on Luck on Sunday. I enquired about Remarkable Force, and he told me he liked to back young lads – the horse arrived at the stable the next day.”

Toomey is keen to keep his band of owners as informed as possible – “I prefer to communicate with them directly rather than speak to racing managers” – as he looks to build on a promising start to life in the training ranks.

He says: “I’m lucky to be in such a peaceful setting – it’s the perfect spot to train from. We don’t have 50 horses trotting against us or chasing us on the gallops in the morning. The horses can go out on their own, be turned out in the pen for a bit of grass or have a buck and a squeal in the indoor school.

“My licence is dual purpose, but I believe there are more opportunities on the Flat. That’s not to say I’ll never train jumpers from here.

“I individualise a horse’s training programme as much as possible and focus on their strengths and weaknesses; this job is about training the mind as well as the body. It’s easier to train a horse when the horse is enthusiastic and well in himself.

“I’m always coming up with new ideas – I think you have to be obsessed with progress. I’m out there all day long, feeding first thing in the morning and last thing at night. People were nearly in bed by the time I had my first winner – this game is full on, but I love it.”

He adds: “Right now, I’m living out my dream and just want to continue growing. That’s a simple as it sounds. I’ve made some good connections and have some good support.

“Apart from the injury, people wouldn’t know me for the career I had as a jockey. As a trainer, I’m determined to make Toomey Racing a success.”