Jockeys escaped serious injury but one horse was put down after an horrific five-horse fall during the Mudgee Cup on Friday.
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The fall happened near the 1200-metre mark when Aaron Bullock’s mount Devilgate Road appeared to catch the heels of the leader Lancelot and crash to the turf.
That started a chain reaction throughout the rest of the field, bringing down jockeys Jay Ford (Are You Sure), Kody Nestor (Scottish Border), Greg Ryan (Sooner Or Later), and Glenn Lynch (Goldstone). Jeff Penza also eased his mount Tuliman out of the race.
Three ambulances were immediately on the scene tending to injured riders, with five - Ford, Nestor, Ryan, Lynch and Bullock - taken to various hospitals.
Kody Nestor was flown to Orange Hospital and was released on Saturday afternoon. He is expected to undergo surgery on shoulder injuries this week.
Aaron Bullock fractured his collarbone in three places and was also treated for concussion.
Greg Ryan suffered concussion and swelling of the ankle and knee.
Glenn Lynch suffered a fractured left foot and facial lacerations and Jay Ford may require surgery for a broken hand.
Sooner Or Later was put down. All other horses were caught after the fall and cleared of serious injury.
Pippi’s Pride’s rider Leanne Henry returned to the mounting yard bloodied and with facial injuries despite managing to finish the race on her horse, which was sixth across the line. She was attended by medical officers.
Only seven horses finished the race, which was won by long-shot Fox Solid. As Fox Solid passed the post in front of the huge crowd, there were no cheers. Instead, spectators gazed at the far side of the track, fixated on the motionless jockeys and their distressed horses.
The winning trainer was an emotional Garry McCarney out of Wellington.
McCarney’s tears were not of joy however, such was the severity of the incident and the eerie atmosphere of the normally cheerful Mudgee crowd.
The Wellington trainer was understandably unavailable for comment immediately after the race.
With one race to go, the mood of the crowd took an obvious turn, and those still in attendance for an event earlier described by local trainer Cameron Crockett during the week as “the best day of the year”, waited with bated breath for further news.
Eventually, the final race was abandoned and the sombre Mudgee crowd made for the gates.
The Mudgee Cup is usually a festive day, with many local businesses holding Christmas parties trackside.
The 2015 Mudgee Cup will certainly go down as one of the most memorable, but for all the wrong reasons.
Mudgee Race Chairman Max Walker told the Mudgee Guardian yesterday there he and the rest of the club are just glad most of those involved got through relatively unscathed.
“The main thing is that they’re all ok,” he said.
“They may have broken bones but they’re all alive.
“Everyone was on such a big high and all of a sudden it came straight down.”
Mr Walker said that the way the club and officials responded to the accident was something Mudgee racing can be proud of.
“The stewards were spot-on,” he said.
“They were on the phone to the jockeys’ families straight away while others were co-ordinating everybody.
“They handled it very well.”
Stewards opened an inquiry into the fall but adjourned it in order to take evidence from the riders involved.
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