The sport of racing has paid tribute to starting stalls handler Stephen Yarborough, who sustained fatal injuries at Haydock Park racecourse on Friday (21 July).

The 60-year-old, who had worked in his role for 30 years, died in a freak incident when he was run over by the starting stalls ahead of the fourth race — the fixture was abandoned.

Nick Rust, chief executive of the British Horseracing Authority, led the tributes to the popular RaceTech employee, who was a starting stalls team leader.

“We are all shocked and saddened,” he said. “Stalls handlers carry out a brave and important job each day — looking after the safety of the horses and jockeys and we are grateful for their work.

“British racing will come together in grief at this incident — we are one family and today we have lost one of our own. Our condolences and sympathies are with his Stephen’s family and friends.”

There is an ongoing investigation to establish how the incident occurred.

Top Flat jockey Jamie Spencer expressed his condolences on Twitter, saying: “Rest in peace Stephen Yarborough. All the stalls teams are unsung heroes and do a very dangerous job.”

Natural horsemanship trainer Gary Witheford, who works with problematic racehorses that have issues loading into starting stalls, said on social media: “Unbelievably sad and devastating news. It really puts things into perspective — our stalls teams work so hard in high risk situations. Our thoughts are with Stephen’s family.”

Meanwhile, young apprentice jockey Toby Eley added: “RIP Stephen Yarborough, a true gent and legend. Only saw you a few weeks ago at Nottingham — you were always so full of banter and always knew how to put a smile on someone’s face if their day hadn’t been great.”

The following day, jockeys riding in races wore black armbands as a mark of respect.