Australia's jockey deaths chronicled in self-published book

Since the beginnings of horse racing in Australia, 950 jockeys have lost their lives while taking part in the sport - including two just in recent months.

Now, for the first time, self-published author John Payne has gathered all their names and stories for "Their Last Ride - The Fallen Jockeys of Australia".

Following eight years of painstaking research, Payne has recorded all of the jockeys' deaths and, in memory of each one, written a small piece about each jockey.

First published in October 2018, a second print run has now expanded to include more recent deaths, including two female jockeys in Melbourne and Darwin on consecutive days in late August.

Payne said the purpose of the book "is not to reflect grief or sorrow on the part of those who have given their lives to riding race horses, but rather reflect on them as individuals, and to honour them for their ultimate sacrifice".

Payne said the book contains details on seven jockeys who, after winning eight Melbourne Cups between them, died in racing accidents.

He also said, of the 13 deaths recorded in racing/training accidents since December 2012, 12 of them have been females.

"Further, apart from the first female jockey killed in Australia, Iris Nielsen, occurring at Lismore on March 19 1988, the other 16 deaths of female jockeys have taken place in other states and territories, she remaining the only NSW death of a lady rider," Payne said.

Apprentice jockey Mikaela Claridge died after a fall during trackwork at Cranbourne racecourse on August 30 2019.

Apprentice jockey Mikaela Claridge died after a fall during trackwork at Cranbourne racecourse on August 30 2019.

Nearly one-third of the deaths across Australia have occurred in NSW, and the average annual deaths recorded through the decade 1897/1906 - 18 - has been reduced to fewer than two in the last decade.

"There are very few occupations where an ambulance follows you about while you're working, highlighting the dangers of their profession.

"However, the book is not intended in any way to disparage the thoroughbred racing industry. Like many sports, interests and occupations, every pursuit in life has its associated risks."

Horse racing commenced, in a manner, very early after settlement of Australia, with horses having been conveyed to Australia with the First Fleet.

On New Year's Day 1847, 25-year-old George Marsden, riding Cassandra in the Union Purse at the Drapers Club meeting at Homebush, became the first official casualty of the turf, dying in Parramatta hospital on January 16 after his mount, and another, had fallen during the event.

By the end of 1879, another 28 riders had lost their lives across Australia, with another 130 jockeys killed in racing-related accidents before the start of the 20th Century, 20 years later.

The book is not intended in any way to disparage the thoroughbred racing industry. Like many sports, interests and occupations, every pursuit in life has its associated risks

Author John Payne

The vast numbers of jockey deaths continued until the mid-1920s, at which stage racing generally came under the regulations of major racing clubs, such as the Australian Jockey Club in NSW, and the Victoria Racing Club in Victoria, who were given charge of approving courses for racing on, licensing participants, improving safety, empowering stewards with more authority and, subsequently, enforcing the wearing of skull caps, which resulted in a rapid decline in the numbers of jockeys being killed and/or seriously injured.

However, despite all of these vitally necessary adjustments, to the present day, nearly 950 jockeys have lost their lives in racing-related incidents.

Book sales have already extended to the UK, USA and Hong Kong as well as across the length and breadth of Australia, with libraries, racing clubs, historians and book collectors being noted among the purchasers to date.

wrote that the book is "a racing history masterpiece".

"Their Last Ride - The Fallen Jockeys of Australia" - can be purchased online at www.theirlastride.com.au