A jockey club executive has defended the decision of officials to run a race during a storm on the NSW north coast yesterday, after heavy hail led to the death of a horse and injuries to several men.
A horse had to be put down, while a jockey and a clerk were taken to hospital after the storm struck Grafton racecourse.
It was one of a string of severe thunderstorms which hit New South Wales yesterday afternoon, with parts of the Central Coast blanketed in hail.
At Grafton, a number of riders were thrown from their horses following Race 4, which was run in blinding rain.
Jockeys Jasen Watkins and Darren Jones were both dislodged from their horses, along with a clerk of the course.
The racehorse Beau Brock, which finished second, took fright and had to be put down after being injured on a fence.
Watkins was taken to hospital with an arm injury, while the clerk was also taken to hospital for observation with a cut to his forehead.
Jones reported having slight back pain but has been cleared by the club’s doctor.
Clarence River Jockey Club chief executive Michael Beattie said the storm arrived unexpectedly and he did not blame the race officials for going ahead with the event.
He said there was no thunder or lightning, so there did not appear to be any danger.
“I’ve got no criticism of the officials that made that decision,” he said.
“What you have to understand is that there had been a storm cell just to the south of Grafton for probably two hours that the officials had been monitoring.
“There was no indication that this particular part of the storm was going to make the late turn and come to Grafton.”
Mr Beattie said the club vet was forced to euthanise Beau Brock.
“He slipped over on onee occasion, managed to get to his feet again,” he said.
“A bit disorientated, he slipped over on a second occasion.
“My understanding is that … one of his legs went underneath the fence and when he attempted to stand up he caused significant damage to his leg resulting in him being euthanised shortly afterwards by the club veterinary surgeon.”