Toowoomba jockey Nori Yamada, pictured here with his wife Maki and young son Mizuki will sadly never ride again following a recent Toowoomba fall. What is the racing industry's reponse to that? Absolutely nothing, as sadly Nori is unfortunately a "nobody". John O'Shea recently had $175,000 raised for him and yet he didn't even have to fall off a horse to get that goodly sum. To me, the industry is a joke in respect of how it treats its fallen and injured. (Photo Dan Costello)
If I take one step back and smell the roses, it’s very easy to reach the conclusion that the racing industry is basically totally useless at looking after their own. Although all players are aware that the thoroughbred and harness codes have a plethora of licensees engaging in a high risk activity on a daily basis, there is either very little or no contingency plan in place to have a pool of money set aside to distribute - as emergency or long term funding - in the event of either serious or fatal injury besetting a licensee.
Only last week - Justracing was able to exclusively advise that Toowoomba based jockey Nori Yamada had received medical advice that he would never be able to ride again – such were the injuries he received in a race fall at his home track of Clifford Park at the Saturday twilight meeting on 9 June this year. Yamada, a city winning jockey, had literally been the toast of the town where he and his family called home, after he won Toowoomba’s annual premier sprint, the Weetwood Handicap, less than three months earlier - on 29 March to be exact.
Yamada is sadly the second jockey to be advised during 2012 that their chosen career as a jockey is over, following a race fall at that Clifford Park track in Toowoomba in recent times. On 31/12/11 Kristy Banks, who had been in such good form that just 12 days earlier she’d ridden four winners at the 19 December meeting at Clifford Park, fell in the opening race on the card and received such serious spinal injuries that she’s never walked again since the fall – and sadly today she is wheelchair bound.
Then just yesterday week at an Albion Park harness racing meeting, battling trainer/driver John Tabone, who the BOTRA (Breeders Owners Trainers Reinspersons Association) Media Release reported “rarely wins races” had an “horrific accident” in a race fall and suffered “quite staggering” injuries - to the point where he is still currently in the intensive care unit of the Royal Brisbane Hospital.
In Sydney recently we had a fundraiser for trainer John O’Shea who had lost a court case over his purchase of a yearling. On the night it was reported that “150 people attended” and an amazing $290,000 was raised, of which $175,000 went to O’Shea “to fill the insurance policy gap” that he was out of pocket for - and $57,500 went to each of Kristy Banks and “the family of the late Pat Quinn”. O'Shea reportedly spent a couple of weeks at Royal Ascot recently with his family, so he's obviously out of the wars.
A few years ago there was another fundraiser with numerous high profile attendees that took place in Sydney - to assist current Brisbane premiership winning jockey Chris Munce - after he'd been charged with a "tips for bets" scandal whilst riding in Hong Kong as a then 37YO in 2007. When arrested, he reportedly had the Hong Kong dollar equivalent of $A40,000 stuffed in his jeans as well as paperwork linked to the tipping scandal. In his sentencing remarks Judge Browne noted Munce had "undermined the integrity of racing". Sentenced to 30 months jail, he eventually served 24 months jail time between Hong Kong and Australia. Again a six figure sum, from memory some hundreds of thousands of dollars, was reportedly raised in that instance.
Then we had Chinchilla based trainer Andrew Donnelly badly injured in a trackwork fall at his home track. I'll come back to Andrew's case shortly.
After Andrew Donnelly, but before Kristy Banks, we had senior jockey Corey Gilby killed when working a horse after a race meeting in Western Queensland at Julia Creek on 12/11/11. I'll also come back to Corey's plight soon.
Whilst all of the aforementioned events are sad, the way they are all individually handled – in no cohesive manner - is totally ridiculous. There is no co-ordinated plan in place. In fact it is, at best, totally discriminatory - because it basically boils down to who you know, as to how you get looked after financially, in the event of hitting a major hurdle in your career path as a jockey or trainer. Take the cases of John O’Shea and Chris Munce. Neither was physically hurt, their "hurt" was both financial and/or emotional, yet between the pair they had many hundreds of thousands of dollars raised for them, even though neither had so much as a scratch - and neither had to even fall off a horse to get all that money.
Yet Corey Gilby sadly got killed at the racetrack whilst engaging in his work. So what happened in that instance? Well Justracing attended the young man’s funeral in Brisbane and counted three licensed jockeys in attendance on a non-racing day Friday in South East Queensland. What an “absolute and utter disgrace” on the part of all jockeys domiciled in South East Queensland I wrote at the time. They couldn’t even be bothered turning up for one of their own. As for a fundraiser, no one in South East Queensland - where Corey had ridden for quite some time - even bothered. In a nutshell, he wasn’t high profile, so sadly no one cared. Whilst he was single, what would have happened had Corey Gilby been like Nori Yamada - that is, married with a two-year-old child and another one on the way? And in any event why should that make a difference whether he's married, single, has six chilren or none? More discriminatory aspects creeping into the debate yet again as to how one jockey and the next gets treated.
What happened in the Andrew Donnelly case? Well only for jockey Cecily Eaton getting involved and ringing me, nothing would have happened with Andrew either. He could have rotted out in Chinchilla and no one would have cared, as again he is sadly “a nobody”. After a hell of a lot of hard work by a group of "nobodys", we raised 30-odd thousand dollars for the poor bugger. Granted that's a help, but it's about $145,000 less than John O'Shea received, yet one of the pair had life threatening injuries and the possibility of permanent physical impairment. Does that outcome seem fair and equitable to both parties? It sure doesn't to me.
That brings us back to the last three – Kristy Banks, Nori Yamada and John Tabone. In the case of Kristy Banks she’s had some good amounts raised for her via raffles and racing memorabilia auctions, after a few people got together and worked hard to raise some money for her. Companies and individuals including Magic Millions, Inglis, Chris Munce, Darryl Gollan and Graham Scheu – and no doubt many others - all did wonderful work raising money for her. Has she got enough money now to get by, given she must have had $200,000 or $300,000 raised for her by now? Who’d know. Everyone in racing hierarchy keeps us in the dark and tells us nothing. We don’t even know within $100,000 how much has been raised for her.
In the case of John Tabone, the harness racing industry jumped on to that one straight away with two race clubs each giving the family $5,000 and one individual donating the same amount. Then they opened up a special Westpac Appeal for him. Terrific stuff, but why should they have to immediately open an Appeal for the family? Why isn’t there something in place from TAB betting turnover, such that an appointed Board - consisting of three or four people - could meet on an as and when basis and discuss what needs to be done financially for a badly injured licensee? Wouldn’t that be far more astute business acumen than the current rot?
What about the latest racing industry victim - young jockey Nori Yamada. He and his wife Maki have one child and decided their life was going along well, so they decided to have a second child, with the end result being Maki is pregnant again. Whilst that’s nobody’s fault but their own, like any sensible young couple they waited until the time was right to plan to have their second child. So what happens to Nori Yamada and his family now? He’s just a “nobody” - so no one cares. Exactly who is going to get off their arse and raise some money for the family? His life is effectively stuffed at a young age, but isn’t his cause far more deserving than that of John O’Shea or Chris Munce at their time of need?
Like I said at the outset, it is what I’d call “rampant stupidity” – and surely having no plan in place to help all these people out is just absurd.
Over many years I’ve written here how to fix the problem – but I’ll write it again tomorrow – right here.
Life doesn’t get any more stupid than John O’Shea getting $175,000 to help him out of a legal bind, yet Nori Yamada gets nothing simply because he’s not a high profile city Saturday jockey and doesn't have any wealthy acquaintances. Had he been “a high profile city Saturday jockey” naturally the newspapers would be all over the tragic story like a bout of the measles, but as he’s a “nobody” the silence from that quarter is deafening. When the local Statewide fish and chip wrapper The Courier Mail can't even put a single racing story from any of the three codes, in their alleged newspaper yesterday or today, what hope is Nori Yamada's plight of getting out in the public domain to their reading audience? About 1000/1 and drifting I'd suggest.
The latest update, advised only 36 hours ago from BOTRA on John Tabone reads:
John is far from a long way out of the woods. Some good signs appearing he is slightly squeezing the hand of family members and moving in the bed to get more comfortable. The swelling has gone down in his brain which is allowing further investigation.
Today they are removing the life support tubes from his mouth and inserting into his neck to make him more comfortable and at the same time they are reducing his sedation.
Doctors advised today that the rehabilitation process will take one to two years
Rest assured he has difficult times ahead, all that being said the family live in hope and we continue to give our moral support.
It will be interesting to see how these issues revolve. We are looking at a permanent scheme that can be put in place to provide for accident victims similar to the W.A. harness racing model.
We wish to thank the industry for the generous donations received in support of the appeal. Donation tins are available at the track acceptance offices or you can donate at any Westpac bank. Your support is greatly appreciated.
Name: Tabone Family Appeal
BSB/Account No: 034001/170090
A fundraising raffle will be conducted on Saturday night at Albion Park "Knudsen's Betta Home Living Stores" have generously donated a Television to raffle. Please support if you are trackside every little bit helps.
Signed: Margaret Reynolds
Tomorrow on Justracing I will advise the industry chiefs – yet again – how to fix this ridiculous problem of fundraising that raises its head every time a bad injury or personal circumstance occurs in any code of racing. If the conglomerate bunch of braindead heirarchy that run racing in this country had acted when I wrote the original story some years ago, we would already have a pool of many millions of dollars sitting awaiting distribution to needy cases - rather than running chook raffles and having special emergency bank accounts set up to attempt to save the family home, or to pay for medical expenses, of licensees in their time of need.