Opinion: Salute the jockeys

Ashlee Mundy's fatal fall at Kurow on Sunday understandably sent shock waves through an industry that is incredibly tight-knit, regardless of rivalries on the track.

It is also a harsh reminder of the courage, tenacity and skill that jockeys need to show on the track every week of the year.

It's easy for punters to sit back muttering about a ''poor'' ride on the horse they've backed, but in an industry which is driven by turnover, it's sometimes forgotten what these jockeys have to do.

They negotiate and control a 550kg-600kg animal with a mind of its own around a track with anywhere between five and 20 other jockeys trying to do the same with their own horses, all at speeds in excess of 50kmh.

Trainers and jockeys hesitate to call it dangerous - and with Ashlee's sad death the first as a result of an official race meeting in seven years, they're probably right.

But that again links back to the talent and skill required to make it as a jockey on a race day. Don't brush that off next time you're having a moan about your $5 going down the drain due to a seemingly poor ride.

Courage aplenty
Well done to all those jockeys turning up and doing the job at Waikouaiti on Tuesday. Clearly, all sorts of emotions would have been floating through their head, but I admired Toni Direen, who also fell in the incident on Sunday, punching her mount Puddle Alley to the lead and almost holding on for the victory.

I'm sure the connections of News Flash won't hold it against me, but a win for Direen would have been fitting, and I'm glad she was uninjured when she came off during the preliminaries for the next race.

Bad timing
I write this column from Alexandra, and as I wander out for breakfast, there is snow on the hills.

In January. Lovely.

The persistent rain was not ideal for the harness meeting at Omakau on Wednesday, but the drivers and the horses soldiered on. It was a good effort for 2800 people to come through the gates, although most had wisely left by the time I went about 7pm, squelching my way to the car in less-than-appropriate dress shoes.

The Ace
Cambridge harness tonight, race 5: Luby Ann. She got it all wrong at Alexandra Park, but she's a nice trotter when in form. The favourite, Irish Whisper, might need this run.

- matt.smith@odt.co.nz

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