A young jockey killed in a fall in Canterbury today has been described as a “lovely, smiley young lady without an enemy in the world.”
Megan Taylor died after her mount, Red Orchid, was one of four horses to fall, 350 metres from the end of race two at the Ashburton thoroughbred meeting.
She was pronounced dead at the track soon after, with racing officials gathering her fellow jockeys together to tell them the heartbreaking news.
The rest of the race meeting was abandoned.
A friend of Taylor, Alex Coleman, told the Herald: “I’m not sure anyone is going to be able to find the words to describe how tragic the loss of Megan is”.
“She was such a beautiful soul that was loved by so many and the shock of her being taken so tragically and so young is completely numbing.”
In a statement on Facebook, Coleman said: “From riding at Belfast pony club to talking each other through moving across the world. You were a special one Megan.
“You were so good at bringing an energy to whatever room you walked into and your fun loving spirit will be sorely missed. Fly high blondie”
Police confirmed to the Herald someone had died at Ashburton Racecourse after they received reports someone was injured there at 1.30pm.
A spokesperson for police said Taylor’s family wanted privacy at this time. WorkSafe New Zealand has been notified and Taylor’s death has been referred to the Coroner.
Hato Hone St John said they received a call at 1.06pm about an incident at Ashburton Racecourse.
“One patient was taken to Ashburton Hospital with moderate injuries. Two other patients with minor injuries were assessed and treated at the scene.”
Three other jockeys, Samantha Wynne, Tina Comignaghi and Diego Monte de Oca, were also on mounts that fell, but while Wynne is suspected of having a broken collarbone, racing officials reported none had serious injuries.
No horses were badly injured in the incident.
Taylor was 26 and still an apprentice (junior) jockey after being relatively late getting into the racing industry.
She had worked as a horse groom for equestrian horses including for top New Zealand riders Tim and Jonelle Price in England, as well as spending time working in shearing sheds.
Taylor had never even ridden a racehorse until 2019, when she started working for Canterbury trainer John Blackadder, before her apprenticeship was transferred to Riccarton trainer Andrew Carston.
She rode trackwork most mornings at the Riccarton training centre.
The South Island’s senior jockey, Terry Moseley, said Taylor was immensely popular.
“She was just one of those people everybody really liked because she was so lovely to be around,” Moseley told the Herald.
“She was smiling, always polite and worked really hard,” he said.
Moseley was riding in the race when the accident occurred.
“I spent a bit of time travelling to the deep south meetings with her and she was very enlightening, one of those young people who energised you and was a real pleasure to talk to,” Moseley said.
“Her loss will be really felt down here. It was incredibly sad today and it wasn’t just the jockeys feeling it, it was everybody there and it will be anybody who dealt with Megan.”
His comments were echoed by other senior jockeys and trainers, all stunned by the accident which strikes at the heart of the close-knit South Island racing industry.
New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing (NZTR) chief executive Bruce Sharrock said everybody in the industry will be offered support and counselling services should they require it.
“We as an industry and NZTR as an organisation are deeply saddened by Megan’s loss,” Sharrock said.
“We will be offering support to her family and I spoke to her mother today and told her that we are here for her in any way she needs.
“That extends to her friends, fellow jockeys and anybody in the industry who needs those services.
“It is a tragedy.”
Taylor told Trackside TV, after riding her first winner at the start of last year, that while she was a relative latecomer to riding racehorses she instantly loved it.
“Once I started riding it happened [becoming a fulltime rider] pretty quickly and I discovered I’ve always loved horses and had off-the-track thoroughbreds (retired racehorses),” Taylor said.
“And I love going fast.”
She rode 16 winners in her short career.
The Racing Integrity Board’s stewards will look into the accident and its cause.
Racing Minister Kieran McAnulty passed on his sympathies to Taylor’s family on Twitter.
“I’m incredibly saddened to hear about the passing of jockey Megan Taylor during a race this afternoon. I want to pass on my deepest sympathies to Megan’s family and friends, and to all of those in the industry who worked alongside her and knew her.”
The Australian Jockeys’ Association said it was a “sad day in racing”.
“Sending our deepest condolences to family and friends of Megan Taylor who sadly passed after a race fall in NZ, also sending our best to the two other fallen riders. A sad day in racing.”
While fatal racing falls are rare in New Zealand, Taylor is the second jockey here this year to die from race fall injuries, with Taiki Yanagida passing away in Waikato Hospital in September, six days after a fall at the Cambridge synthetic track.