'We're so lucky it wasn't fatal'
As the curtain came down on another wonderful season at Punchestown last night, there was a freak incident for officials to contend with as Wexford racegoer Steven Casey was hospitalised after a loose horse galloped into the betting ring.
There were a number of fallers in the competitive and prestigious Conyngham Cup, but the most significant exit was certainly Kaitlin's Fancy unseating her rider at the first flight.
She followed the field around for three fences and then ran out off track before the second-last, with a circuit to go, and jumped a manned ambulance gate which brought her into an enclosure littered with spectators. Blinkered Kaitlin's Fancy then galloped into the betting ring where she collided with the injured party.
Staff and racegoers shouted to raise the warning as the horse jumped the access gate into an area that was the reserved enclosure during the Festival last month, while commentator on the night Peter O'Hehir warned racegoers to be aware of the horse's presence in the betting ring, which undoubtedly helped prevent further damage.
Turf Club medical officer Dr Walter Halley was keen to stress the terrific work of the Order Of Malta who were on the scene within seconds.
Halley said: "The man was a member of the public, probably in his early 30s. He lost consciousness but did regain it before being put in the ambulance and brought to Naas General Hospital where he will be kept in overnight and checked over.
"We are very lucky not to be dealing with a fatality, and I have to commend the Order Of Malta who were there on the spot and did a superb job. I cannot stress enough how good a job they have done tonight."
Racing manager at the track Richie Galway informed a Turf Club enquiry that the racecourse had initiated their own enquiry into the incident. It was agreed that the result of the in-house enquiry would be communicated to the Turf Club, which would then decide whether further action was required.
Meanwhile, the British Horseracing Authority have announced that the public will get to view stewards' enquiries live for the first time at the upcoming Derby meeting at Epsom.
The move is part of the Racing For Change campaign that is ongoing in British racing as they attempt to do everything possible to make the sport more appealing to the general public. While this trial is not going to bring in new faces to the game, it will be hugely welcomed by racegoers who, for the first time in 250 years, will be able to see the workings of the British authorities.
The current Betfair market on the Epsom Derby would suggest that the Aidan O'Brien-trained Dante Stakes winner Cape Blanco is set to bypass Epsom in favour of the French Derby.
O'Brien is responsible for the top four in the betting for Saturday week's Epsom Classic but is not going to pitch the quartet up against each other and instead send at least one to the French equivalent.
After an eye-catching drift yesterday on Betfair that saw the unbeaten Cape Blanco out to 29/1, it would appear that it is the impressive York winner who will be sent further afield as St Nicholas Abbey remains the main Ballydoyle hope, with Jan Vermeer, an ultra impressive winner on his seasonal debut at the Curragh last week, also popular.