I didn’t get a chance to back Corey Gilby. A battling bush jockey. One of those characters who ply their trade away from the big smoke.
He was based in Mt Isa, but had ridden all over the place. From the NSW South Coast to country Victoria. Central Queensland to the Northern Territory.
The young bloke had cheated death once on the racetrack. Can you believe, he was hit by lightning while in the saddle? And survived.
That should have been enough. But fate can be awfully unfair.
Last weekend, Corey rode on the five race card at Julia Creek. About as far as you can get from Flemington. A training gallop was organised after the last. Not uncommon at country meetings.
Just two horses. Both passed the post. Then something went wrong.
Corey’s horse, a galloper that will never make it to Randwick or Eagle Farm, floundered. It seems the young bloke was crushed underneath.
He died in Townsville Hospital on Sunday night. Corey was 25.
The thing about being a jockey, is that tragedy doesn’t discriminate. Group Ones count for nothing. Accidents can happen if you drive a Mercedes to the track, or catch a bus.
Ken Russell was a huge name in the eighties. The King of the Gold Coast. Doncaster winner. He got them home everywhere.
He was one of the industry’s most popular hoops, with thousands of senior rides under his belt.
The Queenslander lost his life, on a black day at Rosehill, in 1993.
I know racing people who still get emotional about his death. All these years on.
Then there are those jockeys who survive. But have their lives changed forever.
Alan Cowie is one. Another much-loved rider, who had the ability to make horses travel sweetly for him.
I was at the Gold Coast the day ‘Pup’ fell. It was one of those terrible moments, when you feared the worst.
He’s in a wheelchair now. With an incredible spirit. He does form, and manages jockeys. Rare to see him at the track without a smile.
The problem is, the horses they ride are so bloody big. Over 500 kilos. On four skinny legs. Going like the clappers.
The margin for error is so tight. It only needs to go slightly wrong, and we hold our breath.
They face dangers like few other sportspeople. Lives are on the lines, every half hour. Often for very little reward.
It’s worth remembering, the next time you grumble about a jockey. I thought about that, after seeing a mid-week special go under this week, thanks to a ride that may or may not have involved a blindfold.
Yes, it was infuriating. Yes, the family will be eating beans for a week. But there are worse things.
Let’s hope Corey Gilby’s family knows how much we feel for them. That sometimes, a terrible price is paid, simply for doing something you love.
Our jockey friends will go around again today. And tomorrow. And next week. There’s no racing game without them. And we thank them for it.