by Chelsea Hackbarth | 01.11.2019
An accident during Monday’s morning training hours at the Fair Grounds resulted in the death of a pair of Thoroughbred racehorses and severe injuries to one exercise rider, Roderick “Roddy” MacKenzie.
According to various individuals with knowledge of the situation, an unnamed young horse from the barn of Joe Sharp unseated his rider and took off the wrong way around the racetrack. MacKenzie was breezing another horse for trainer Neil Howard and was unable to avoid the loose horse. The ensuing head-on collision resulted in the death of both horses – it was unclear whether the horses were killed instantly or had to be euthanized.
(Howard declined to identify his horse in order to protect the privacy of its owners.)
MacKenzie suffered a broken arm and broken leg, and has undergone a pair of surgeries this week. Howard said the exercise rider came through the surgeries well and is in good spirits.
“This incident was a blink of the eye incident; there wasn’t any safety feature that any track has in place that would have had any impact on this accident,” said Howard. “It was unfortunate that a rider came off a horse, and you hate to say this but it’s just one of those things that happens that we all have in the back of our minds.”
The safety alert system at the Fair Grounds involves flashing lights around the track and an announcer letting riders know where the horse is and which way it is moving.“I’ll say this, when you’re on a horse out there, not only do you know there’s a loose horse but you also know where that horse is, how fast he’s moving and what direction he’s moving in,” Howard explained. “So the feature that they have here, actually exercise riders are put at ease. When I leave here, I miss it.”