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How 'Bubba' bounced back to take Rocky Cup

By Kobie O'Brien

Days after his fall on Kanui at Townsville, a wounded Les ‘Bubba’ Tilley watched on at a Rockhampton meet, nursing facial fractures and a broken hand, all while feeling the effects of a severe concussion.

The Charleville jockey was looking at months on the sideline but somehow, pushed through the pain to be back in the winners' circle just two weeks later aboard the Krystle Johnston-trained Executed.

On Saturday, 'Bubba' was holding his first Rockhampton Cup after a brilliant front-running effort on Tony McMahon's Mamselle Corday. 

In a little more than the month, the jockey went from lying in a hospital bed to winning one of Queensland's most sought after races. 

Although he didn't lose a great deal of confidence usually associated with a bad fall, Tilley admits he still had plenty to overcome to get back in the saddle.  

“I didn’t really lose any confidence, it’s more the fact that I didn’t really remember much of it," he said.

“I was pretty confident to get back in the saddle but I just wasn’t confident of how my hand would hold up, that was the main thing.”

Riding through obvious pain, 'Bubba' was determined not to let the injury ground him, with his near-immediate comeback to riding seemingly more impressive the more you read into it. 

“I broke 5 or 6 bones in my hand," he revealed.

“It was 14 days exactly from when I fell to when I had my first ride back. I actually had 29 rides in that one week, I went everywhere.”

'Bubba' is building an impressive resume, which includes wins in the 2016 Roma Cup and 2017 Mackay Cup. 

However, he rated the Rocky Cup win among his best. 

“The thing I liked most about it was winning it on a 50-1 shot,” He said.

“There was plenty of talk that Cantbuybetter can’t get beat, and then to sneak through on one of Tony McMahon’s who has maybe 3 or 4 horses in work, that was the most thrilling part.”

In red-hot form after a successful comeback, 'Bubba' will again be on board the Rockhampton Newmarket runner-up Executed at Grafton on Wednesday, as the six-year-old takes on Listed company in the $160,000 Ramornie Handicap (1200m).

It will be Tilley’s second crack in the saddle in listed grade, after finishing second at his only previous attempt.

Although the talented hoop has been luckless in both Queensland and Victorian metro races to date, he hopes it is only a matter of time before he breaks through in Saturday grade, where he is striving to ride consistent city winners.

“I just want to cement myself in Brisbane basically,” He said.

“I haven’t rode a metro winner yet but I’ve been done a nose a fair few times.”

Tilley will take two mounts at Grafton on Wednesday, before heading to Dalby for 5 on Thursday.