A CENTRAL Queensland racehorse trainer has called for an urgent review of safety protocols for race starts after his horse had "broken its neck" in freakish circumstances in Rockhampton last week.
The horse, Turf Music, crashed its head into the steel starting gates before the start of a Rockhampton race last Thursday and died within minutes of subsequently performing dismally in the event.
A post-mortem confirmed the horse sustained a fractured vertebrae and finished tenth of 11 as a $15.00 chance in the Class 4 (1100m).
Rockhampton's chief steward Luke Collins has sent reports to Queensland's chief steward Wade Birch who late yesterday promised a "full investigation".
"Safety is our paramount concern for rider and horse. If there has been any deficiencies in the manner this matter was dealt with, it will be fully investigated", Birch said.
Thangool trainer Jeffrey Rideout said his horse had "broken its neck" when after standing quietly in the stalls, it anticipated the start and lunged-forward striking the locked front gates mechanism before rebounding.
Collins' official stewards' report of the race said: "Turf Music was fractious in the barriers and was a little slow to begin".
"Even the on-course race caller (Russell Leonard) commented on it and it wasn't as if it just happened instantly before they jumped (started). I was surprised he wasn't backed-out of the barriers and inspected by the vet. It was many seconds later before the race started. He just tailed-out in the race and I knew something was dreadfully wrong," Rideout said.
The trainer said Turf Music pulled-up very quickly after the race and appeared dazed and un-coordinated after jockey Nathan Patchett had dismounted.
"He told me Turf Music hit the gates pretty hard," Rideout said.
In Patchett's words he said Turf Music "shook his head and stood-up" after striking his head on the gates.
The jockey said he then asked of officials "are we going to vet it".
He said someone replied - "no he didn't hit it that hard".
"At the start he was a bit slow away and seemed dazed but when he got travelling during the race he felt fine. When I pulled him up after the race, I knew the horse wasn't right and he had a cut over his eye," Patchett said.
Fearing the horse may collapse in the enclosure, Rideout said he got a "dopey" Turf Music to a hosing bay and quickly arranged for ice from the bar for a wound over the horse's eye which was bleeding.
"I got him to outside the vet's stall and he was staggering. Within minutes Turf Music, which had a big lump appearing behind his head, collapsed backwards and died after having to be euthanized," Rideout said.
In trying to cushion Turf Music's fall onto the asphalt, Rideout broke his finger which was caught in the lead as the horse went over backwards.
Rideout stressed he was not blaming any individual nor was this "a witch hunt" but questioned what "might have happened".
"I'm sad about the horse's death but what if he had been in the middle of the field and collapsed during the race. Jockeys lives could have been lost. Punters all over Australia lost their money cold if they backed Turf Music last week. Everyone watching on TV would have seen it and wondered.
"This is not good for racing. Surely if a horse crashes like he did and hits his head on steel gates before a race he should be pulled-out and inspected. If they do that in similar circumstances in future, some good may be done and a tragedy averted," Rideout said.
Birch said it was "a judgment call" as to whether officials at the start had horses vet inspected before adding "this (Turf Music incident) is the last thing we want to see happen".
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