Four horses died at Wincanton racecourse yesterday and jockey Jay Harris was taken to hospital in the grimmest race day of the 2007 season.
Harris sustained injuries to his face and wrist when his horse was brought down in the Elite Racing Novice Hurdle. He was taken the Yeovil Hospital where his condition is described as “stable”.
Two runners were killed in the same incident. Warlord, ridden by the conditional jockey Daryl Jacob, fell in the back straight bringing down Harris’s mount, Stars In His Eyes, who had to be destroyed. Warlord, who was concussed in the fall, was sedated and put down without getting to his feet after breaking a bone in his neck. Jacob was not injured in the pile-up.
Priests Bridge, a mare who had not raced for 1,283 days after having a foal last year, died instantly after falling at the second fence in the novice chase and breaking her neck. Nevsauteur, the 9-2 favourite in the penultimate handicap chase suffered a fractured fetlock on the far side of the track and had to be destroyed.
Officials at Wincanton are looking into the incidents but do not believe there is any factor linking them. The ground conditions were good after 2.5 mm of rain on Sunday and showers throughout the day.
“The four fatalities are regrettable,” said Rebecca Morgan, Wincanton’s Clerk of Course. “And we are looking into the circumstances of each one but everyone knows the risks associated with jump racing.”
At Cheltenham Festival last week only two horses suffered fatal injuries compared to 10 in 2006. But as the racing world prepares for the John Smith’s Grand National at Aintree (14 April), yesterday’s events are a stark reminder of the dangers associated with jump racing.