Racing fraternity mourns vivacious jockey

Jockey Courtney Barnes wears a black armband in honour of Ashlee Mundy at the Waikouaiti races yesterday. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
Jockey Courtney Barnes wears a black armband in honour of Ashlee Mundy at the Waikouaiti races yesterday. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
The jockeys' rooms at Waikouaiti were missing a smiling face yesterday. Rider Ashlee Mundy (26) died in Dunedin Hospital on Monday after a race fall at Kurow on Sunday, and the mood was sombre as the Waikouaiti Racing Club held a minute's silence before the first race of its annual meeting yesterday.

Jockeys at the three thoroughbred meetings nationwide wore black armbands as a mark of respect. Among those mourning Ms Mundy at Waikouaiti yesterday was veteran jockey Terry Moseley, who remembered a conversation with her shortly after they met in 2004, when he discovered her home town of Westport was where his father grew up.

''We started talking then. The old [West] Coast families, they're pretty parochial about the Coast, aren't they?'' Mr Moseley said.

The pair often travelled together to race meetings.

''She was a capable rider and a pretty, vivacious young lady,'' Mr Moseley said.

''She had a lovely personality and was a nice person with it.''

While Ms Mundy was known for her friendliness and positivity, Mr Moseley said she knew how to focus once a race began.

''She had her competitive side, don't worry about that. She wouldn't take a backward step, either. She would hold her own anywhere.''

Yaldhurst trainer Michael Pitman, to whom Ms Mundy was apprenticed from March 2004, also recalled her positive nature. Ms Mundy lived with the Pitmans for two years before her parents suggested she buy a flat.

''It was the best thing ever, as she channelled all her energies into paying her flat off,'' Mr Pitman said.

After winning a race at her first attempt, on Starkay at Oamaru in August 2004, Ms Mundy went through a quiet patch.

''She never rode another winner for 14 months and 80-odd rides.

''I thought she was a really good rider then, but it took a long time for the penny to drop.''

Then there was no stopping her.

''She rode 100 winners as an apprentice, unbelievable for a female jockey in the South Island,'' Mr Pitman said.

''She was a good kid - terrific work ethic - and she was a very good sportsperson. Before she came to me, she was a very good swimmer, and very dedicated.''

New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing chief executive Greg Purcell said the industry was in shock over Ms Mundy's death.

''All our thoughts are with Ashlee's family at this terrible time. This is a very sad day for them and for the wider racing community in New Zealand.''

Ms Mundy rode 232 winners, including four prestige races. She had been riding in Queensland for the past few years where she had another 43 winners.

Ms Mundy had been working at Lisa and Kenny Rae's Christchurch stable during her holiday, and planned to return to Australia in February, AAP reported.

''She'd rock up every morning ready to ride. She was just one of those people who have a natural way with animals,'' Lisa Rae said. ''Our owners are broken; they're distraught. Ashlee was just lovely.''

Nigel McIntyre, of the New Zealand Racing Integrity Unit, said the RIU was investigating the race fall at Kurow in conjunction with the police, who will prepare their own report.

Riding deaths at New Zealand race meetings were rare, he said. The previous jockey to be killed was Sam McRae (16), at Riverton in 2005.

Ms Mundy's funeral will be held at Westport on Friday.

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