Top jockey Ben Melham has launched a withering spray at Racing Victoria, claiming their focus on ‘turnover and revenue’ is at the ‘expense of people’s lives’ after Saturday’s meeting featured the third sickening fall in a fortnight.
The 18-time Group 1 winner, whose partner – the glamorous superstar rider Jamie Kah – had to be rushed to hospital in a critical condition a horror incident at Flemington last weekend, is clearly fed-up with seeing his fellow riders fight for their lives on race day.
It comes after Teo Nugent was left with a fractured C1 vertebrae and his mount Florescent Star had to be euthanized after being involved with a nasty fall on All Star Mile day at Mooney Valley on Saturday.
It means the last three Saturday meetings in Victoria have seen jockeys rushed to hospital after a race fall.
It started with Ethan Brown suffering internal injuries after a fall in the Group 1 Australian Guineas at Flemington on March 4, before Kah and Craig Williams were rushed to hospital last weekend after the horrifying fall in the Sires Produce Stakes.
Ben Melham has criticised Racing Victoria after his partner Jamie Kah (pictured) was one of four high-profile jockeys to be rushed to hospital after a sickening race fall in just a fortnight
Kah and Melham are one of racing’s biggest and most glamorous power couples
Kah’s head injury was so significant (though she has been cleared of brain bleeding and fractures she remains in hospital, after Melham said she had to be ‘heavily sedated to allow her brain to rest’ after the accident.
Williams’ injury list is also significant, suffering a fractured collarbone, broken ribs, fractured finger and concussion as a result of the fall.
After seeing Nugent become the fourth high-profile injury casualty of a race fall in just a fortnight, Melham had obviously had enough.
‘The elephant in the room needs to be addressed. Victorian workload on racing participants in far too high,’ he wrote on social media.
‘Turnover and revenue is important, but not at the expense of peoples lives. Fatigue kills!
‘Hopefully three near-death experiences in three weeks is enough.’
Jamie Kah (right, pictured at Royal Ascot in the UK last year) is still recovering from a nasty fall last weekend
Kah was rushed to hospital after the sickening fall, which left her with a heavy concussion. The superstar jockey is still in hospital dealing with the effects
Ethan Brown is comforted by his partner in hospital after a horror fall on March 4 left him with internal injuries
He then explained exactly why he believes jockeys are at risk, revealing a brutal schedule leaves riders open to fatigue, which can led to errors with horror consequences.
‘Race riding requires mental clarity for split second decisions,’ he said.
‘We ride Wednesday twilight, Thursday night, Friday night. (There’s) Trackwork and trials four to five days a week.
‘Racing (is) 24/7 365 days of the year. It’s not sustainable. If meetings aren’t scheduled people simply can’t go.’
Next week features a total of 10 racing meetings in Victoria, as well as the regular trials and trackwork, while NSW will host 16 meetings.
A number of fans and high-profile racing identities indicated they thought Melham had hit the nail on the head.
‘The suits at Racing Victoria have (no worries) in programming wall-to-wall racing with zero risk to them personally. Ditto wagering companies. Heads they win (getting very very well paid), yet tails the participants lose,’ wrote outspoken pundit, Ralph Horowitz.
Ben Melham has taken a scathing swipe at Racing Victoria for the treatment of racing participants, accusing them of putting profits over safety
Racing identity Tim Thwaites said the problem was only going to get worse.
‘Is there too much racing? Yes there is, we don’t need two meetings during Monday to Friday. I was a baker for 14 years getting up at 2am etc.. fatigue is real and dangerous, but the riding of ‘some’ jocks also needs to be addressed,’ he said.
‘Furthermore…Caulfield (has a) second track coming, they’ll want night racing, (and) Cranbourne want Saturday night racing.
‘You’ve also got a Racing Victoria executive saying ‘we won’t move the Cox plate until the next wagering deal is done’ #toomuch.’
‘Couldn’t agree more with Ben Melham here! Been saying this for weeks! Trainers can’t even get staff, jockeys expected to be up at 3am and riding night meetings until late! All for the gambling money Racing Victoria is taking. Enough is enough,’ said prominent tipster, Bucks Bets.
He also found some support from trainer Kristen Buchanan.
‘Could they (Racing Victoria) keep the meetings, but restrict the number riders can attend? That way there is plenty on offer but riders not spread too thin, also gives a fairer distribution of income to rider ranks,’ she said.
That being said, a number also didn’t agree with his strong take on the issue.
Particularly in the wake of Australia’s top jockey, James McDonald, having a suspension for careless riding reduced to allow him to ride on Golden Slipper day.
James McDonald after winning the George Ryder aboard Anamoe on Saturday. The top jockey was only able to ride after his suspension was reduced
Jamie Kah, a nine-time Group 1 winner, is still in hospital after her shocking fall alongside Craig Williams last Saturday
Ironically he was suspended yesterday and will miss this Saturday’s Tancred Stakes meeting after his careless riding in the Group 3 Epona Stakes.
‘No Ben, (the) elephant in (the) room is some jockeys get away with blue murder every meeting, (and) when they do get banned stewards look at race meetings coming up and ban accordingly. JMac (James McDonald) the example, allowed to ride on Slipper day and didn’t learn, charged again,’ one fed-up fan wrote.
I’t’s the ultimate cop out from Melham blaming these falls on fatigue. It’s no coincidence that the falls were in big prizemoney races, with jocks going for gaps that weren’t there. The riding has been reckless,’ wrote another.
‘Sorry what? Victorian jocks are riding like absolute cowboys at the moment. Racing too close together, racing on heels, putting horses heads in gaps that aren’t there, pushing out when no room and making the consequences someone else’s problem. Very ordinary take this,’ said another irate punter.
Racing this week is headlined by Australian Cup day at Flemington, and the Tancred Stakes meeting at Rosehill.
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk