The trainer of a racehorse who got loose while still blindfolded and subsequently died has described the incident as “devastating” and the “worst experience she’s ever had as a trainer”.
Just Marion, a five-year-old mare trained by Clare Ellam, was blindfolded while being loaded into the starting stalls ahead of the 7f apprentice handicap at Brighton racecourse on Monday (12 June).
However, drama ensued when the Trish Marks-owned mare stumbled as the stalls opened at the start of the race and her apprentice jockey, Louis Steward, was unable to pull the blindfold off before being unseated. The daughter of Bushranger then ran blind around the course.
“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” said the Derbyshire-based trainer. “I haven’t seen the footage yet, but I want to know why she had a blindfold put on in the first place.
“My horses are prepared for their races and we do stall training at home — she had never had a problem with them. If I were concerned about her going into the stalls, I would have been down at the start with her.”
The bay mare was eventually caught and was taken to Arundel Equine Hospital where she was put down as a result of her injuries.
“Her injuries were horrific — it looked like she had been hit by a car. She’d run into concrete fencing and had multiple fractures to her head and lacerations,” added Clare.
“She was our yard mascot and the easiest horse to ride at home, you could put anyone on her. It is just gut-wrenching.
“She had really blossomed since coming back from her holiday and she’d been working well at home, alongside horses rated much higher — this was meant to be her time to shine.”
Robin Mounsey, head of media at the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), added: “The incident at Brighton was extremely sad and our sympathies are with the connections of the horse.
“The circumstances around this incident are exceptionally rare, but it will be assessed and, as ever, if there are lessons to be learned then the BHA and racecourse will work together to act on them,” he said.
“Racecourses are designed partly with the management of loose horses in mind and improvements are constantly being made to increase the safety of all participants — both human and equine.”
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