Saddest win of all for veteran Ballina jockey
By ADAM HICKS firstname.lastname@example.org OF the 500-plus winners Lorna Cook has ridden, this one will stand out as the saddest.
Last Sunday the Ballina jockey rode Rose General to a one-and-a-half length victory in the Christmas Cup at Grafton, oblivious that Daniel Baker lay dying on the track behind her.
"I didn't know anyone fell until I pulled up and saw the loose horse," she said.
Baker sustained severe head injuries and never regained consciousness after his mount Hotshot Hayil fell during the race.
The win soured quickly. "You can't really be happy when you know someone has been hurt," she said.
"I know Daniel, not as well as some of the other boys, but he was a lovely kid.
"He was well mannered and always a friendly boy." Baker died aged 23 when doctors at the Gold Coast Hospital switched off his life support system on Tuesday.
"We're all just shocked and sad," Cook said. "From all accounts he was pretty bad. We half knew it was coming, so I suppose in the back of your mind you knew it was a very real possibility, but it is still very sad.
"What can you say? "We're all shocked and sorry for their (Baker's family) loss. I don't know what else you can say at a time like this.
"There is not a lot anybody can do or say to make it any easier for their family." Nor any easier for the racing community.
"As you can imagine we're all pretty close and it hits home pretty hard," she said. "I don't know how to describe it
"We know we take these risks every time you go out there, it's something you've got to accept but the death of somebody you know, it hits home hard."
"You can't quite believe it has happened to someone you know, someone who's in your area that's close.
"Everyone is going to need some time to deal with it." However sad it is, Cook said the racing and the jockeys would go on.
"It is something you think is not going to happen ... (but) it doesn't put second thoughts in your head," she said.
"You just get out and do it. It's like any sport. Accidents are going to happen. We go out there every day knowing the risks.
"It's just something you think is never going to happen to you."