At the New Year’s Day race event at Towac Park, on January 2, 1906, 16-year-old James Doherty was thrown from his horse Genet.
The horse stumbled at what would then be the five furlong marker, but in today’s numbers is 1000 metres from the finish, before being thrown onto a jockey known as, Matthews who was riding on top of Siren.
Doherty then slipped beneath the horse, fracturing his skull, and he was taken to Orange hospital where he died the following night.
He was one of four jockeys to lose their lives on Australian racecourses that day in 1906.
Their stories are four of over 900 stories of jockeys losing their lives on Australian racecourses from 1853 through to 2018 recounted in a new book called Their Last Ride by Orange man John Payne, released last month.
Payne said the book was originally a side-project while working on another book, but the quest to remember the lives of those who have fallen while racing eventually consumed more time than anything else over the eight years.
He travelled the breadth and depth of Australia, talking to jockey clubs, trawling through old newspapers and – if he had to – by contacting families to find as much information as he could.
“Every family member I contacted couldn’t thank me enough for finally doing something to remember their loved ones,” Payne said.
“I hope I’ve done a small justice to each jockey concerned and their extended families … the sacrifice they made has not been recorded in any comprehensive manner and all of them deserve proper and honourable recognition.”
Copies of the book are available at Collins Bookstore in Orange, or online at theirlastride.com.au.
Jockey deaths at Towac Park
Michael Tierney: March 8, 1889
Orange-born jockey Tierney was racing on Harpy, and while jostling in the field fell from the horse and struck his head on the boundary post, where the 17-year-old broke his neck and died.
Herbert Cunneen: April 25, 1906
While exercising a horse named Whisper, Cunneen was thrown heavily after the mare collided with a calf that had strayed onto the course. The 23-year-old suffered severe spinal injuries and died later that night.
James Doherty: January 2, 1906
Thrown from Genet into the path of the oncoming Siren during race three of the New Year’s Day races. The 16-year-old suffered a fractured skull and died the next day.
Melvyn ‘Snow’ Schmierer: March 6, 1951
‘Snow’ Schmierer won the George Slater Progressive Handicap riding Silent Nell. While easing his mount down as he went past the post, the pair fell and Schmierer was kicked, suffering severe injuries and dying that night. Silent Nell was still declared the winner.