December Second dead as tragedy mars horse racing’s return at Newcastle

Oisin Murphy recorded his first winner of the campaign as the champion jockey got Sir Michael Stoute’s 5-2 joint-favourite Alignak up to land the Betway Handicap from fellow market leader Good Tidings, but it was a race that saw two fallers in the straight, with PJ McDonald’s mount December Second bringing down the Jim Crowley-ridden Financial Conduct.

Both jockeys were reported to have escaped serious injury, but Crowley will be replaced by Murphy aboard Thibaan in division one of the Betway Maiden Stakes.

A visibly upset Phil Kirby, trainer of December Second, said: “He’s gone, I’m afraid.”

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A spokesperson for the BHA said: “We are all deeply saddened about the loss of December Second this afternoon. No one will be more affected by this than the trainer Phil Kirby, the owners and the stable staff who provided the horse with first-class care throughout his life.

“Equine welfare has been an important consideration in our planning to return – for example there have been limits placed on field sizes as part of the sport’s resumption of racing strategy. Racehorses have been able to continue to train and exercise during the lockdown and have been able to maintain their normal level of fitness, looked after by dedicated staff. Their safety has been an important consideration in our planning for return but it is impossible to remove risk altogether

“On average a horse falls once in every 1,000 runners in Flat races. Statistics shows that horses are more likely to suffer injury at home in a field than on a flat racecourse, and at the racecourse our horses have access to the best possible care. December Second was treated by vets within seconds of his fall.

“Those who watch the sport over the coming weeks will be left in no doubt about the exceptional welfare standards that British racing has in place. We are committed to ensuring our horses lead a life well lived from the moment of their birth throughout their whole lives, and we take a determined and relentless approach towards reducing avoidable risk where possible.”


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