Bedside vigil for injured teen jockey

Ashley Frye.
Ashley Frye.
The father of a promising young jockey who was in an induced coma after falling on her head during a race is confident his daughter will recover.

Danny Frye and his wife, Kay Young, are keeping a bedside vigil for their only child, Ashley Frye, who suffered a serious head injury during the freak accident at Ashburton on Friday.

Mr Frye said yesterday Ashley, 18, had not yet opened her eyes or been able to squeeze his hand but he believed it was just a matter of time.

"She's a tough little cookie, she'll bounce back. Everything's positive, nothing negative at all, but it's a long, slow process."

Ashley, who last year was the country's second-leading apprentice jockey after racing for only the year, was under sedation in the intensive care unit at Christchurch Hospital.

Mr Frye, a prominent former jockey, said Ashley was breathing unassisted and sedation levels were being lowered.

The teenager also suffered a fractured vertebra in her neck, which wasn't "sinister", he said, and a broken collarbone.

He said the fall from 3-year-old filly Zuleika about 150m into the 1200m track was "an act of God" because the circumstances leading to it were almost unheard of.

Zuleika, trained by Steven Woodsford, was fit and healthy and a favourite for the race, said Mr Frye.

But an autopsy on the horse, which had to be put down after it broke a hind leg and sustained a fracture around the hip, showed it had suffered a severe rupture to an artery.

"It's a very rare occurrence. It was only a young horse and showed plenty of ability and no signs of any medical problems. There's no rhyme or reason, definitely no fault from anybody."

Mr Frye said even the way his daughter had fallen was unfortunate. "When she fell, she unfortunately fell head first and has been knocked out since then."

Her helmet came off on impact.

Ashley, who is 18th on the New Zealand Jockeys Premiership, had never fallen before in a race.

Mr Frye, who was at the track when the accident happened, said he was in disbelief as he rushed to his daughter's side.

"Just the fact that she hadn't got up. It's a bit of a surreal situation."

Ashley's partner, fellow jockey Matthew Cropp, also went to her aid and stood down from racing later in the day to be with her.

Mr Frye said support from family and friends and the NZ racing community had been overwhelming and he and wife Kay, a former equestrian rider, were extremely grateful.

Now they were just waiting and praying for Ashley to wake up.

They had stored a "few goodies" in the fridge for their daughter for when she was ready. "Just a bit of chocolate milk and some Old Gold dark chocolate."

- Natalie Akoorie of the New Zealand Herald

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