Ballina jockey banned for race death
By ADAM HICKS
CARELESS riding by 16-year-old Ballina apprentice jockey Joshua Jones caused the race fall that killed Daniel Baker, a stewards' inquiry determined at Grafton yesterday.
Baker's mother Debbie, a Coffs Harbour horse trainer, sat in a car weeping before the hearing at the Clarence River Jockey Club.
Her son, a popular 23-year-old jockey nicknamed 'Spider', died from severe head injuries sustained when his mount, Hotshot Hayil, crashed to the turf 200 metres from home in the Christmas Cup (1400m) at Grafton on December 2.
Stewards began the inquiry into the fatal accident immediately after the race, but postponed it to give Daniel's family time to grieve.
When the inquiry resumed at 11am yesterday, Debbie Baker summoned a calm composure while she gave evidence against Jones.
Later she clutched the arm of friend Gordon Yorke, a licensed trainer and Daniel's godfather, as stewards suspended Jones for three months and warned his career was in crisis.
"Josh you are an apprentice of some promise, but your career is at the crossroads unless you immediately take stock of your riding," the inquiry chairman Craig Pringle said.
Video footage of the race released yesterday revealed Baker was riding the $2.70 favourite Hotshot Hayil, sitting second rounding the home turn outside Sonofa Star ($3.20), ridden by Grafton apprentice Ben Looker.
Casino jockey Lorna Cook was on the rails one length behind on Rose General ($7) with Jones on her outside on Concitare ($9).
In the home straight Jones and Cook moved up to the leaders to create a four-horse line Looker on the fence, Cook two-deep, Baker three-deep and Jones on the outside.
Baker got crowded, his horse slowed, clipped the heals of Jones' ride and went down.
The panel of three stewards on the day called on Jones, Looker and Cook, along with fellow rider Andrew Parramore and Hotshot Hayil's trainer Brett Bellamy, to reconvene and comment on video footage of the accident from four different angles.
All opinions suggested it was Jones' error.
However, Jones pleaded not guilty to a charge of careless riding for allowing his mount to shift in (move closer to the fence) and sandwich Baker.
The stewards took 30 minutes to find Jones guilty.
"We find that it is as a result of your shift in that Hotshot Hayil was badly crowded on to Rose General, becomes unbalanced and falls," Pringle read.
"Whilst we acknowledge that there is slight moving up by Rose General, that may well be as a result of Concitare inviting Hotshot Hayil on the hind quarters of Rose General, which as the video shows turns its shoulder out.
"Irrespective, we are satisfied the severe crowding of Hotshot Hayil was a direct result of the movement in, from Concitare, with the seriousness of the incident aggravated by your continuing use of the whip and riding out of the horse during the incident."
In Jones' 18-month career prior to the incident he had been suspended eight times and received four reprimands for careless riding.
When asked to speak in Jones' defence before sentencing, his master and Ballina trainer Stephen Lee said Jones had been working on his technique prior to the incident.
"Before that incident, he had tightened himself up quite a bit," Lee said.
After reviewing the footage, Jones was too upset to comment and Lee said Jones had realised his error.
"He shifted in a little bit more than what he thought it did on the day," Lee said. "Concitare's such a big horse, such a big-striding horse, he didn't feel him shifting in."
But Pringle said Jones' record would work against him. "We have considered your riding record, and indeed that does not entitle Joshua Jones to any special consideration," he said.
"Any penalty also must provide not only clear and adequate punishment, but also must provide a deterrent both personal to you Joshua Jones and to other riders who do not show the requisite duty of care to other riders.
"Aggravating this breach is your continuing to ride when your horse was shifting ground inwards, and indeed continuing to ride after making contact with Hotshot Hayil.
"The consequential affects of this breach are the most serious, and in circumstances such as this is often luck which determines whether a horse is brought down or not brought down.
"It is often luck that determines the extent of injury to fellow riders. You, Joshua Jones, along with every rider would be fully aware of those dangers and the reason therefore a duty of care must be shown to fellow riders."
However, the stewards did consider that while Jones had ridden over 100 winners, he was still a boy.
"One mitigating factor is of course your age and relative inexperience, and that has been laid out by the stewards," Pringle read.
Jones was given a three-month riding ban to begin when his current suspension, for causing a fall at Wyong in late December, expires on February 1.
Jones will be back on track from May 1, but will serve a further three-month probationary period.
He was warned by NSW Racing chief steward Ray Murrihy that should he offend again during that time, he would have his Metropolitan licence revoked. If he offends twice, he loses his racing licence indefinitely.
Jones has two days to appeal.