MARCH 1 2017 – 6:41PM
An serious accident at Thoroughbred Park on Tuesday morning hospitalised Canberra track work rider Riharna Thomson. Photo: Graham Tidy
Canberra horse trainers say a “dark cloud” is hovering over Thoroughbred Park after a freak accident on Tuesday rocked the tight-knit racing community just days before the capital’s marquee race weekend.
Track rider Riharna Thomson, 22, was in a critical condition at Canberra Hospital on Wednesday night after suffering major head trauma when she fell from Chosen Prayer.
The mare, trained by Keith Dryden and Scott Collings, broke its leg and had to be euthanised, while officials are investigating details of the fall.
A sombre silence fell over Thoroughbred Park on Wednesday as trainers and riders returned to work in preparation for the Black Opal Stakes on Sunday.
Canberra Racing Club boss Peter Stubbs confirmed club employees and stable staff had been offered support and counselling services.
“Certainly we’re doing it tough, it has been very sad and traumatic for everyone involved,” Stubbs said.
“Racing NSW racing pastor, Colin Watts, is down here for a couple of days, as is our own club pastor, Steven Prior.”
The Black Opal is Canberra racing’s biggest prize, and the build up to a bumper day of racing, which also includes the Canberra Cup and Canberra Guineas, is usually met with anticipation.
But trainer John Nisbet said the racing community’s thoughts were with Thomson and her family.
“There’s a dark cloud hanging over the place at the moment. We all ride, it could have happened to any of us, it’s just terrible,” Nisbet said.
“We’re all down today. She’s a lovely young girl who loves her horses, a quiet girl but she always has a beautiful smile on her face.
“There’s a lot of falls at the track but we’re just used to the ambulance coming and taking them away and it only being a broken bone. But this time they went away with the sirens on, so we were concerned when that happened.”
Nisbet fell from a horse in similar circumstances more than a decade ago and said it was only sheer luck that allowed him to walk away unscathed.
Former jockey and friend of Thomson Chynna Marston was forced into retirement following a crash in 2014 and agreed with Nisbet’s sentiment.
“A horse breaking its leg is one of those things that you certainly can’t predict and it can happen to anyone on any day,” Marston said.
“One of my best friends was riding on the track next to Riharna when she fell… it would have been such an awful situation trying to help Riharna first and foremost, but also with the horse trying to get up.”
Trainer Barbara Joseph said track work riders were among the most dedicated in the racing industry and drew on her own experience to reiterate the dangers of the sport.
“It has been absolutely shocking and everyone is so upset, it’s very hard for those who do the track work, they’re dedicated and love their horses and what they’ve chosen to do for a living,” she said.
“I rode when I was that age and I had some bad falls and got knocked out a few times, so I was very lucky to get through without a serious injury.
“It sinks in when it happens to one of your own and certainly puts things in perspective. It’s a tough day for everybody in the game.”
Queanbeyan trainer Joe Cleary said it was the tough times that saw the racing community rally together.
“Situations like this, which are hard to explain and fathom, affect the whole racing community and you realise just how close-knit the community is,” he said.
“We’re all doing our best to get a quid out of this game and make a living, but off the track we’re stuck in a bubble together and we stick together through the tough times.”
Work Safety Commissioner Greg Jones said WorkSafe ACT was investigating the incident.
“This is a terribly difficult time for the family, and they have asked that I convey that while they sincerely appreciate the support of the Canberra community and racing industry, they will not be making any comment to media,” he said.
Source : Canberra Times