Jockey Trampled in Fatal Fall at Pleasanton Racing Facility

Image via CNN

Tragedy struck the California racing world after a jockey fell from his horse during a race and later died of severe head trauma. Jorge Herrera, 33, was thrown from his horse, Morito, at the Pleasanton racing facility. He was transported to Eden Trauma Center where he was pronounced dead.

[Jorge] was racing in his second event of the day at the track in Pleasanton when he was thrown from his horse, Morito, which appeared to clip the heels of another horse and stumble. Herrera lurched forward and went over Morito’s head as the horse righted itself and continued.

“He was stepped on by either his horse or another horse and suffered severe head trauma,” April Mitchell, a spokeswoman for the Alameda County Fair, told CNN affiliate KPIX. “We deeply mourn this loss today.”

Mitchell told CNN that racing began at its usual time Friday, with a moment of silence after the national anthem. A memorial service was scheduled for Sunday, the last day of the three-week meet.

The racing death is the first since jockey Mark Villa died at a New Mexico track in September 2010 and is a stark reminder of the physical toll the sport can take.

Jockeying is the most dangerous job in sports based on the number of deaths and injuries, said Terry Meyocks, national manager for the Jockeys’ Guild, based in Nicholasville, Kentucky.

Since 2007, there have been five deaths — including Herrera — and last year 19% of the active riding members of the guild were out on temporary disability. There are roughly 650 active riders in the guild.

Within the past month the guild has begun work on a jockey injury database, which looks not only at the number of injuries, but at the racing conditions and what gear the rider was wearing, Meyocks said. The goal is to find patterns that might help prevent injuries in the future.

Meyocks said there has been an average of about two jockey deaths per year in the United States — 152 total — since the guild started compiling a fatalities database in 1940.

It is the first death at the racing facility in 37 years. Herrera was an experienced jockey, with over 1,000 races and 55 victories.