“I won £7,000 in horse betting while in a coma”

“I won £7,000 in horse betting while in a coma” – Sport Scan/Trevor Jacobs

When Trevor Jacobs, co-owner of champion chase hopeful Editeur Du Gite, recently won a four-figure bet on a bet, his celebration was more muted than it normally would be. After all, he was on a ventilator in an intensive care unit.

Jacobs, whose horse was 6-1 in Wednesday’s race at Cheltenham, was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome in July and has been hospitalized ever since.

Within 24 hours of his admission, having left his legs and arms paralyzed, the disease had reached his lungs. The 68-year-old was put on a ventilator and was in an induced coma for a month, during which his heart stopped twice.

Gambling has had a bad rap lately but his weekly pick-me-up during the ordeal has been ITV races on a Saturday and a couple of bets placed on his son Ryan. Couldn’t it be yours for almost nine months, confined to the same room, same bed?

On the Saturday in question, Jacobs raised £7,000 from a £150 trixie (four different bets on three horses). All the alarms on the machines that keep it running started going off.

“The counselor came in and said, ‘I can’t believe what I’m seeing. You can’t move and you can’t breathe or speak and you’ve just won £7,000,” Jacobs tells Telegraph Sport from his hospital bed in Portsmouth. “Now everyone wants to know what the tips are. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen every Saturday.”

While the doctors, nurses and machines in the intensive care unit have kept Jacobs physically alive, it is Editeur Du Gite, the nine-year-old trained by Gary Moore, who has provided a medicine for the mind.

GBS is a mysterious condition in the medical world – all doctors are made aware of it, but the majority will go an entire career without encountering it.

An autoimmune disease, often triggered by a gastrointestinal virus or vaccine. The reaction destroys the immune system so severely that nerves are stripped of their myelin covering. The best analogy would be if you removed the outer plastic covering of an electrical wire – if you do that, it will not conduct electricity efficiently. It’s the same with nerves.

Jacobs, a fit, hands-on earl who started out as a bricklayer but now runs several building and construction companies on the south coast, had used a personal trainer for 10 years, played golf and was a member of Royal Ascot Racing Club for 20 years and religious ” dry January” – “I have a few on the bench after that,” he jokes.

He came back from a golf trip to Bruges on a Friday. At the time, his wife Mary was on a cruise in Istanbul. But in the early hours of Saturday morning, his legs began to weaken. “Then one of them started making the Hokey Cokey himself,” he recalls. “I crawled down the stairs, called my son Ryan, and that’s when things started to go wrong.”

Notoriously difficult to diagnose, all his tests and scans were clear and medical staff thought it might even be polio, while Jacobs continued to deteriorate.

After his legs, his arms grabbed, but the real problem with GBS is when it gets into your lungs, and 20 minutes after Mary arrived from a flight from Turkey, he was put into a coma.

I came into contact with Jacobs because I once had GBS and wanted to show him that there is an afterlife. I felt a bit of a cheat as mine was mild, 3/10 according to the doctor and I left the hospital after five days. A 10/10 will kill you, but my guess is Jacobs, who must have the constitution of an ox, had a 12/10.

“I was so fit the day before,” he says, and can now hold a conversation again after eight months of having to turn his mouth to visitors to be understood.

“It was like throwing a hand grenade into the body. I’m lucky I’m still going. When I woke up they had to open my eyelids for me and I had to turn my head to the left for yes and to the right for no. I am gradually weaned off the ventilator and breathe on my own for up to eight hours every other day. I have to go through this for up to three days in a row before they let me out. It’s baby steps – I’ll probably be here for another three months.

“I never see improvement but if someone doesn’t see me for a few weeks they notice and that’s encouraging, but I sometimes wake up in the morning and it breaks my heart.”

To remind him of the progress he has made, on the wall in front of him is a list of milestones written on a whiteboard by the nurses from day one: “9. July, no movement anywhere.” It’s a collection of small victories. On January 10th it says: “6 min Breathing on own.”

However, there is no mention of the two biggest victories during his time in hospital, Editeur Du Gite’s win at the Desert Orchid in Kempton on December 27 and the Grade One Clarence House Chase, won on December 28. The French-bred running gelding beat Edwardstone and Energumene , the two horses ahead of him in betting for Wednesday’s race.

Niall Houlihan rides Editeur Du Gite to Clarence House Chase in January - 'I won £7,000 horse betting despite being in a coma' - Getty Images/Alan Crowhurst

Niall Houlihan rides Editeur Du Gite to Clarence House Chase in January – ‘I won £7,000 horse betting despite being in a coma’ – Getty Images/Alan Crowhurst

Jacobs has had horses for a long time, first with Epsom trainer Terry Mills, then with his son Robert and as he was packing he joined Gary Moore. He’s more of a flat man than a jumper and also has a half share of two horses with Eve Johnson Houghton.

“Gary is as good as gold,” he says. “What you see is what you get. Salt of the earth. Hard working. He’s been there a few times. He shuts down, chats himself up, gives a false name. He’s very spontaneous, he doesn’t think to ring the bell, but he has experience with people on ventilators with his son Josh.

“I have always had interests in two or three horses with Gary and in November 2019 he asked me if I would like a leg in a French horse he is bringing. It took him a year to come to his senses and over the past two years he’s just gotten better.

“When he won at Kempton, all the machines started humming and all the agents came running. Cheltenham? B—– Damn, I thought Edwardstone would do it, but it was the same as the loose horse [also Edwardstone] got over his head in Kempton – he won’t let them pass.”

His stoic wife Mary visits him every day and after losing 3rd place he has started cooking his evening meal but has insisted that she go to Cheltenham with Ryan and his brother Daniel on Wednesday. He’ll be watching with some buddies and, dare I say, some nurses if they know what’s good for them.

“If he wins, come back and interview me, although I don’t suspect anything,” he says. “But I can’t wait until Wednesday.”

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