Hes just a kid, trainer says
By ADAM HICKS firstname.lastname@example.org
BALLINA apprentice jockey Joshua Jones was just a kid involved in a tragic accident in a dangerous sport.
That's how his riding master and Ballina horse trainer Stephen Lee yesterday summed up his apprentice's involvement in the death of Coffs Harbour jockey Daniel Baker.
Lee defended Jones, 16, in the aftermath of a stewards' inquiry that found him guilty of causing the racing accident that led to Baker's death.
Jones was this week suspended from racing for three months for careless riding in a Grafton race on December 2 that resulted in Baker's horse, Hotshot Hayil, falling and leaving the popular 23-year-old with fatal head injuries.
"He wasn't banned for the death, he was banned for the fall," Lee said yesterday.
"He was a 49kg kid riding a 600kg horse and there people out there who are going to judge him.
"Really, from what I read, you are just blaming the kid.
"Do you guys realise this guy is a 16-year-old kid, who's out there in a man's sport?"
The Northern Star yesterday reported on the inquiry, which involved four jockeys from the race, under the headline 'Jockey banned for race death.'
The stewards' inquiry%determined: "We find that it is as a result of your (Joshua Jones') shift in that Hotshot Hayil was badly crowded on to Rose General, becomes unbalanced and falls," inquiry chairman Craig Pringle read.
"The seriousness of the incident was aggravated by your continuing use of the whip and riding out of the horse during the incident."
Lee said he was considering lodging an appeal against the decision that found Jones solely responsibly for the accident.
"He's come out of that room the only one blamed. He's come out of there blamed for the fall that tragically killed another jockey," he said.
"He's doing it pretty tough, don't worry, and I'm sure the three-month suspension, is far from his most concern.
"This is a tragic, tragic accident, we are feeling it too you know. I can't imagine what his (Baker's) family is feeling.
"At the moment he needs a bit of support and that's what I'm trying to give him. We know he's partly to blame for it ... Josh is going to have to live with it for the rest of his life."
But Lee said while he wanted to protect Jones, he did not want to be disrespectful to the Baker family.
"We're not like that at all. That's probably playing on our minds, but you've got to come to a conclusion whether he's 100 per cent to blame," he said
Lee said Jones had returned to Sydney, where he had been riding with the Anthony Cummings stable.
"I told Josh not to read a paper, unfortunately he did. I don't think he's concerned about the suspension, I think that's the farthest thing from his mind, just the lay of the percentage of the blame on him," he said.
"That's what's going through his head.
"I've got to protect the kid where I think that's fair ... we just need to be certain that the fall was all his fault."