Patrick Scorse refused to answer his phone for five months.
Some days he was late to work. Others, he couldn't even get out of bed.
Because the sport he loved became the sport he hated.
"I couldn't understand why I hated it so much. I just lost the passion for it and... I just wanted out," Scorse said.
So the Canberra jockey gave up. He tried to move on from racing until his phone buzzed while he was changing spark plugs in the garage. This time he answered.
It was a voicemail from Barbara Joseph, the trainer he rode for during his jockey's apprenticeship in 2018.
"It was the first call in five months I returned. That was someone I was happy to hear from," Scorse said.
The 21-year-old hoop agreed to do trackwork for Joseph's stable after one of her riders sustained an injury.
But trackwork soon turned to jump outs, cumulating in an earlier than expected racing comeback.
Scorse returned to Thoroughbred Park for the first time in five months on Friday, riding the Gratz Vella-trained Bonhomie to seventh in the maiden handicap (1200 metres).
But the result didn't take away from his joy of being back at the Canberra track, especially with his father John watching on from the mounting yard.
John is a former jockey who rode multiple Group One winners and now provides commentary for Sky Racing.
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"I'm very happy I took the initiative and went on that break, I was on a downhill spiral," Scorse said.
"It's just amazing to see the difference from when I came back. Anyone I've ridden trackwork for would tell my dad or my boss, they could see it was like night and day.
"I've got a newfound hunger for the game that I don't think I've ever had before.
"It's the one percenters I try to do now and if I compare it to my best form, I couldn't even say I was having half the go to what I'm doing now. Just a bit of time away really made me miss it."
Scorse rode 51 winners at a strike rate of 14 percent in the 2017-18 season, before making the leap to Sydney to ride under John Thompson.
He claimed another 35 wins in 2018-19 but his form dwindled late last year, leading to his decision to step away from the sport in December.
"I wasn't in a very good headspace if I'm honest, it was a very dark time when I left," Scorse said.
"I wasn't succeeding as much as I'd hoped and what I thought I could have done considering how my first season of riding went.
"I had pretty high hopes but I wasn't meeting them, my weight was also an issue.
"I was letting people down that really tried to do right by me, so it made me feel quite bad. It didn't matter what I did, I just wasn't happy with my job."
The young hoop made his racing comeback in Albury last week and won a Class 1 handicap aboard Mitchell Beer's Desert Storm.
But he returned to a very different racing industry, which has been the only professional sport running in Australia since coronavirus changed the world.
No crowds, members or owners are allowed on courses in Canberra and NSW, while jockeys are restricted to riding only in their regions.
Scorse says the absence of spectators took the pressure off his return to racing, taking a stance against the abuse jockeys cop from punters.
"I found it a little easier to be honest because I was so nervous to come back and see everyone after I disappeared off the face of the earth for five months," Scorse said.
"With no spectators, it feels like there's been a weight lifted off my shoulders so to speak.
"It's a lot easier to do my job because I want to do my job, not to please the average punter.
"I'd love to keep everyone happy, but this is a game where you can be frowned upon quite harshly and the social media has been appalling."
Meanwhile Keith Dryden's Express Courier claimed the $30,000 Federal at Thoroughbred Park, edging out Hilltop Hood by 0.31 lengths to claim his fourth win in five starts.
- If you need urgent help with anxiety or a mental health crisis contact Lifeline 131 114 or lifeline.org.au, beyondblue 1300 224 636 or beyondblue.org.au.