The Roar
The Roar


What price death or serious injury in racing? In Perth it's $15,461.54

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Roar Rookie
10th March, 2023

A Netflix documentary looking at the so-called  ‘worth’ of people killed or seriously injured in the 911 attacks caused me to reflect on the price that racing puts on serious injury and death.

During the recent Perth carnival, a horse died as a result of jockey carelessness. As noted by Perth Racing CEO James Oldring, “Horse racing is a high-risk sport for everyone involved”. In any other field reckless, negligent or dangerous would be considered more fitting descriptions of such behaviour in high-risk settings. Think running a red light.

But in racing, such actions are framed around a very forgiving narrative. This was displayed in the Perth Cup case and by Oldring who claimed that those involved did everything they could to mitigate any danger. That is pure nonsense.

Yet this was not an act of God or the horse’s fault. This was not a split second decision that afforded no foresight- Oldring told us that. Mark Zahra’s recent testimony to stewards at Flemington also told us that.

Sadly, Oldring’s posturing simply mirrored the broader industry position that race falls, serious injuries and horse deaths are an acceptable cost of ‘doing business’.

If that wasn’t the case, would we continue to see no change in the number of race falls causing serious injuries and horse deaths over so many years?

In assessing the jockey’s level of culpability for the interference that caused the horse’s death in Western Australia, the lead steward classed the six week suspension as “a very large penalty” for a professional jockey. In this jockey’s case, it would have cost him $15,461.54 in fees and commissions (using 2022 figures as a guide).

So there you have it, that’s the price of the death of a horse in Western Australian racing. $15,461.54.

Mirage Dancer

Jockeys take on great responsibility when it comes to the welfare of race horses. (Photo by Lo Chun Kit /Getty Images)

Fair? Equitable? Just? Are these not the principals of any judicial system? I find it very hard to accept the stewards proposition of a “very large penalty” given the death of a horse, a mare, that had won connections $17,000 in prizemoney at its previous two starts and which had a valuable broodmare career ahead.

Importantly, will this penalty mitigate against jockey carelessness or dangerous disregard in future races? A look back to Hugh Bowman & Hot and Hazy suggests not. A look at levels of recidivism suggests not. A look at racing statistics suggests not.

Will the future be any different for horse and jockey welfare following the race fall at Flemington last Saturday that hospitalised Ethan Brown with life threatening injuries and caused two horses to fall, at significant cost to owners?

That a horse or jockey did not die is a miracle and not a result of racing’s mitigation efforts that have failed over a long period of time.

Here is a REAL test of Racing Victoria’s Strategic Equine Welfare vision. Will ‘horse first’ thinking feature in any action taken by racing officials? Their approach will continue to speak volumes.