Mystic Journey is going to be awfully hard to beat this preparation based on her first-up performance at Caulfield on Saturday, but I wouldn’t be rushing in to back her in any futures markets.
The death of young jockey Simone Montgomerie at yesterday’s Darwin Cup meeting is a stark reminder of the dangers jockeys face every time they are legged up on a horse.
Montgomerie, 26, died after she suffered horrific injuries when she fell from South Australian galloper Riahgrand at the 100m when leading the field in the Lightning Plate, the sixth race on the card.
She was a young mother and an important part of the small, tight-knit Darwin racing community, making her terrible loss even more tragic.
It is easy to forget the risks jockeys face on a daily basis until an incident like this brings jockey safety into the spotlight.
Any sport where a jockey weighing barely 50kg attempts to control a 600kg beast with a mind of its own is going to be dangerous, and yet advances in safety have ensured tragic incidents are incredibly rare.
By coincidence, last Saturday was National Jockeys Celebration Day, held to recognise Australia’s fallen jockeys.
Sadly, their number grew by one yesterday.
The accident resulted in the final three races on the card being cancelled, including the Darwin Cup itself.
Yesterday’s meeting is the jewel of the Northern Territory and one of Australia’s most famous country race meetings.
The front page of yesterday’s NT News said it all, a big Darwin Cup splash, joined by a small banner along the bottom announcing: “And in other news, we’re having a federal election”.
The decision to abandon the club’s most important meeting of the year would have been a financial disaster for a club which would draw a large majority of its yearly profit from this one raceday.
But sometimes, money is not the be all and end all, and there’s no doubt the move to abandon the remainder of the meeting was the right decision.
To ask her peers to ride in the final three races, when they would have been grappling with the terrible news, would have been cruel.
From a clinical perspective, it would have been an occupational hazard.
It was impossible to continue the meeting.
But as the racing industry mourns one of its own, the best aspects of our industry have come to the fore.
The racing community has come together like it always does in difficult times.
Around the world, there have been tributes from racing fans. They would not have known the name Simone Montgomerie before today, but they share in that inexplicable bond which links those involved in racing, wherever they are on the planet.
Already, fundraising efforts are underway to support her young family, with donations being pledged to the National Jockeys Trust.
Still, nothing will bring her back to the people that love her dearly.
A former colleague of mine, Matthew Steed, provided one of the more profound comments of the day, true for every armchair jockey around the country.
“We often question their [jockeys’] judgement but never their courage. RIP Simone.”
Amen. Rest in peace Simone.