Death of jockey ‘mum’ tragic blow for racing
THE Queensland racing community has lost its "mum" after much loved jockey Desiree Gill died following a race accident at the Sunshine Coast Turf Club.
Mrs Gill, 45, was pronounced dead at Nambour General Hospital on Sunday morning after falling from her mount Celtic Ambition at Corbould Park at Caloundra on Saturday night.
The racing community yesterday rallied around her husband, trainer Barry Gill, and two sons.
The Gympie-based hoop was described as a mother hen and mentor to many young riders.
She was a 30-year-old veteran of the track, known for her generous spirit.
She worked as a training officer for Racing Queensland, never shirked an opportunity to accept a school-based trainee and took on seven trainees at the stables she ran with her husband.
"I love seeing kids come along with an interest in becoming involved in racing," she said in an interview last year. "I've probably driven Barry mad over the years as we've taken on a truckload of kids."
Queensland Jockeys Association president Glen Prentice described Mrs Gill as a much-loved figure of the country and regional racing community.
"She was a great mentor to a lot of young apprentices in the country - her and her husband," he said.
"Someone was just telling me a story that at the race meetings they used to call her 'mum'. She had that personal touch with them. It's hit a lot of (the jockeys) hard."
Racing Queensland has begun an investigation into the fall, which happened early in the fifth race and caused the rest of the meeting to be abandoned.
The inquiry is expected to take several weeks but Mr Prentice said early evidence suggested it was simply an unfortunate accident.
It is believed Celtic Ambition clipped the horse in front of her, throwing Mrs Gill to the track.
She was taken to Nambour General Hospital with bleeding on the brain and placed in an induced coma, before being pronounced dead yesterday morning.
After completing her apprenticeship under Caloundra-based trainer Peter Brennan, Mrs Gill went on to become a mainstay of the country circuit, winning seven Gympie premierships and back-to-back South East Queensland Country premierships in 2011-12 and 2012-13.
She twice had her career threatened by race falls at Corbould Park.
In the mid-1990s she was told by doctors she would never ride again after smashing her ankle in a trackwork accident at Caloundra.
She returned to the sport, only to be ruled out for four-and-a-half years when she fractured her leg in 10 places during another accident at Corbould Park in 2003.
Less than a year after her return, she was airlifted from Gympie to Brisbane after being kicked in the face by a horse she was attempting to saddle.
She became the 503rd jockey to die on Australian race tracks. She was also the fourth Australian jockey to die as a result of race accidents in the past two years.
Mr Prentice said the Coast's jockeys had taken the tragedy hard and were being offered counselling.
"There is a meeting at Warwick (yesterday) and the jockeys were consulted prior to racing," he said.
"They were offered the chance to stand down. When a rider passes away it tends to affect them all."