Star New Zealand jockey Danielle Johnson suffered a broken leg and trainer Cliff Goss a broken heart after a tragedy struck the major mile at Ellerslie on Saturday.
Hot favourite Gold Watch, trained by 90-year-old Goss, broke down at the 200m mark in the $120,000 Group 2 mile, throwing premiership-winning jockey Johnson to the track.
Both horse and rider suffered broken legs, which in humans are painful but in horses usually fatal, especially when they happen at race speed.
That was sadly the case for Gold Watch, who was caught at the 100m mark and after being surrounded by a privacy screen had to be euthanised.
When Gold Watch stumbled Johnson was dislodged and hit the firm track, rolling several times.
The course doctor and medics were immediately on the scene and she was diagnosed with a broken lower leg but was talking and lucid with no head injuries.
Johnson is not only the New Zealand premiership holder but also the partner of champion trainer Jamie Richards, who ran down the track to be with her while she was attended to and then placed in an ambulance to Auckland hospital.
He confirmed from her hospital bedside tonight she was scheduled to be operated on and while in obvious pain was conscious and with no other serious injuries.
Stipendiary steward Matt Williamson said no riders were to be charged over the incident because while three horses had been racing in close proximity when Gold Watch faltered, his injury was not caused by any interference, more a cruel twist of nature.
The injury to the Johnson and the loss of Gold Watch, who was obtaining cult status in New Zealand racing, most because of his 90-year-old owner-trainer, left Ellerslie racing fans stunned.
Goss, who hadn’t been to Ellerslie since Gold Watch had won there a year to the day, has credited Gold Watch with keeping him going after his wife Rae died three years ago.
He looked understandably shocked and in disbelief surrounded by family in the Ellerslie birdcage, with few emptier feelings for a horse trainer than taking a horse to the races and not taking them home.
The horrible incident distracted attention from the wonderful family win of Mali Ston in the Rich Hill Mile, the gelding trained by Darryn Weatherley and brilliantly ridden by his son Sam to weave through the field to record the biggest training success of Darryn’s career.
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