On Friday 2nd March, 22 year old track rider Riharna Thomson, lost her fight for life following a tragic trackwork accident at Canberra Thoroughbred Park during a routine morning gallop.
Riharna’s passing is a timely reminder of the risks our riders and jockeys take each time they’re legged up onto their daily rides.
Horse racing is high on the list as one of the world’s most dangerous sports however the passion for the animal and the industry makes it easier to push any fears aside. As I’ve heard many a jockey mention, “If you thought about it, you wouldn’t do it.”
So today, I’d like to pay tribute to the unsung heroes of this sport – the hardworking, passionate and dedicated stablehands and trackwork riders. These are the people whom, just like Phar Lap’s Tommy Woodcock, form such strong bonds with their charges and do so much ground work in caring for their wellbeing.
Starting in the stables at 3am each and every morning, these staff sacrifice their social lives and family time to make sure our horses have full feed buckets and plenty of fresh water. That their feet are clean and their coats groomed. They have a knack in knowing when something isn’t quite right and they deal with mother nature at both her best and worst to ensure our athletes turn up to the races ready to perform at their best.
Despite the raceday competitiveness between stables, there is still a real comradery at the track. I can only assume the sombre cloud that has fallen over Canberra’s Thoroughbred Park this past week. A cloud full of sadness, shock and apprehension, but also with the understanding that the show must go on.
So to the trackriders and stablehands - past, present and future - I thank you for everything that you do.
I send my heartfelt condolences to all of Riharna’s family, friends and the Canberra racing community. May she rest in peace.