Elly Chapple follows her dad's lead against his wishes

GENE POOL: Dean and Elly Chapple on their Moonbi property. Photo: Gareth Gardner
GENE POOL: Dean and Elly Chapple on their Moonbi property. Photo: Gareth Gardner

Dean Chapple did not want his only daughter, Elly, to follow his lead and become a harness racing driver - with his worst fears realised when she was involved in a horror crash in the Inverell Cup in March.

Elly, in year 12 at Oxley High, was checked when the horse inside her fell - resulting in the 17-year-old being tipped from the gig and run over by horses.

She was knocked unconscious, and was transported to Lismore Hospital on the Westpac Rescue Helicopter. She broke her elbow, and still has bruising. The following morning, she was transferred to Tamworth Hospital and operated on.

BANGED UP: Elly convalesces at home in early April. Photo: Supplied

BANGED UP: Elly convalesces at home in early April. Photo: Supplied

Tamworth reinswoman Sarah Rushbrook was also injured in the crash. She broke a leg, cracked seven ribs, fractured a vertebrae and suffered a collapsed lung. She, too, was choppered to Lismore Hospital, where she was operated on.

"She [Elly] drew No 2 and I drew No 3," Dean said of the race. "I actually hit the lead, but I seen her fall out the corner of me eye, and, yeah, the feeling was ... You'd never explain it.

"It was a horrible day. But, luckily enough, we got through it all right."

The race was abandoned.

Dean, 50, lives on a Moonbi property with his wife, Julie, and their two children. He has been involved in the harness racing industry, as a driver and a trainer, for more than 30 years - and will contest his first Group 1 race as a trainer on Saturday. He will also drive Emm Aye Dee in the race, the $100,000 TAB Hunter Region Championships Final. His history in the sport is the template his daughter follows.

In trying to dissuade Elly from becoming a driver, he explained to her the "ups and downs" and the dangers she would face. She had her first drive on Easter Monday, 2019, and has had three career wins.

"You want to protect your children for as long as you can. This is a pretty tough sport ... I had hesitations [about her driving]," Dean said, adding that the more he tried to dissuade her from driving, "the keener she got. So I knew I was wasting my time."

FLASHBACK: Chapple and Rushbrook just prior to being transported to Lismore Hospital. Photo: Supplied

FLASHBACK: Chapple and Rushbrook just prior to being transported to Lismore Hospital. Photo: Supplied

He had hoped a silver lining would emerge from the Inverell crash: Elly's retirement.

Did you have the retirement discussion with her?

"I sort of thought I wouldn't have to: I thought it [the accident] might pull her up. But, no, I haven't [had that discussion with her]. Children, the more you fight with them, the more they're gonna do it."

Elly had the cast removed from her left arm on Thursday. She will undergo physio, and Dean expects her to resume racing within six weeks. He described her work ethic as "second to none".

"She got through it good ... she's shown no ill-effects, and she's keen to get back [to racing]," he said.

He continued: "These things happen - and she had a top-notch fall straight up. Usually you have little tiny ones here and there, but she had a big fall straight up. Hopefully it doesn't get any worse from here on end."

Elly said she was in a "good" headspace after the accident. The fact that she was knocked out and can't remember it has been a blessing in disguise. She "definitely" wants to get in the gig again.

"I've always wanted to give it [the sport] a go because of what I've grown up watching him do," she said of her father.

This story Elly Chapple follows her dad's lead against his wishes first appeared on The Northern Daily Leader.