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Cancer took my husband and now it’s got me – but I won’t let it stop me winning the Epsom Derby, says Jessica Harrington

, Cancer took my husband and now it’s got me – but I won’t let it stop me winning the Epsom Derby, says Jessica Harrington

JESSICA HARRINGTON is praying it will be all’s Well that ends well in the Derby this afternoon.

Her big hope Sprewell will be roared on by punters on both sides of the Irish Sea as he bids to give her a Classic tonic in the middle of the fight of her life.

Harrington has won the Gold Cup and had winners at Royal Ascot – but nothing will hit home at this stage and time of her life like an Epsom Derby victory

Training queen Harrington, 76, is unlikely to make it to the Downs to watch her new star in the big race.

But her daughters Kate and Emma have taken the reins and done mum proud so far.

The legendary handler was diagnosed with breast cancer in October but did not reveal the news to her close pals until earlier this year.

She was admitted to hospital for several days in December and again in February.

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Harrington, who has trained a Gold Cup winner at Cheltenham and Classic heroes on the level, has now finished 16 gruelling rounds of chemotherapy but is still likely to need further radiotherapy and surgery.

Her family and friends in the racing industry have rallied around her, and she now says she sees the “light at the end of the tunnel”.

No doubt, it has been a worrying and frightening few months for popular Jessie.

But being able to see the horses in her yard every day, while dealing with nausea and exhaustion from her treatment, kept her going through some dark days.

A dream day at Epsom would provide a tear-jerking afternoon.

Harrington, who lost her husband John to cancer in 2014, said: “Things are better now and I’m lucky enough to have finished the worst part of it now the chemo is done.

“That was tough, it took around three weeks for them to get my medication right so that I wasn’t feeling sick all the time, before that I thought I’d died.

“It is a big fright.

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“It all happened really quickly. I said ‘all right, fine’, I didn’t really think about it, I just got on with it.

“We’re moving on to the next stage now and it’ll take a bit longer, but I hope that I’ll be out and about again very shortly.

“The horses really have been a massive help to me and I’m really lucky to have a massive support team here.

“My daughters Kate and Emma and my son-in-law have been around all winter keeping things going and I did my best to get out every single day that I could to look at the horses, because that was the best therapy that I reckoned I had.

“I see the light at the end of the tunnel now and it’s absolutely fantastic.”

Harrington went racing for the first time in months at Leopardstown late last month.

She has been reluctant to go to the track and risk picking up an infection.

Harrington said: “I went racing last to Leopardstown because it’s nice and near. I’ll most likely watch the Derby from home but if I feel OK I could yet make a surprise visit.”

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Whether she is watching on the box or from the stands, she has a right chance on her hands in the shape of Sprewell.

, Cancer took my husband and now it’s got me – but I won’t let it stop me winning the Epsom Derby, says Jessica HarringtonJessie is one the biggest names in the game and an Epsom Derby win is one of the few things missing from her CV

The improving three-year-old put himself front and centre in the Derby picture with an easy win in the Derrinstown last time.

When the Harrington family most needed a lift, along came the son of Churchill to book his ticket to the world’s most famous race.

Harrington said: “I’ve been delighted with him. We knew he’d come on over the winter and he’s run two solid races.

“He’s come out of the Leopardstown run very well and we were delighted with him. He definitely stepped forward from there again and we’re looking forward to the race.

“I think the step up to a mile and a half will suit him, he ran through the line very strong at Leopardstown and he’s a very strong and relaxed horse, which is the main thing.

“Nothing seems to faze him and I think going the mile and a half will suit him because I think he’ll settle well, which he had done in both of his races this year.

“He’s done everything we hoped he would do.”

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The ground was very soft at Leopardstown so the only slight question mark remains over his ability to handle the likely quicker ground on the Downs.

Harrington isn’t worried though.

And given what she’s been through, the weather is the last thing on her mind.

She added: “I think they all go on quicker ground once. He’s actually a very low moving and good moving horse so I see no reason why he wouldn’t run well.

“It’s just out of circumstances that he’s run on soft ground all four starts, because it was a wet autumn in Ireland and then we’ve had a wet spring.

“Whatever happens, he’s in great form and, needless to say, it would be very special if he won.”

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