Jockey dies after fall from horse in OK

Updated: October 19, 2009, 4:49 PM ET
Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission is investigating the death of a Texas jockey who was thrown from his horse during a thoroughbred race at Blue Ribbon Downs in Sallisaw over the weekend.

Racetrack general manager Blaine Storey said Mark Pace, 58, died Sunday after falling off his mount, Reep What You Sow, during the first race. According to the race chart, the horse, a 60-1 long shot, hit the rail on the backstretch, lost its jockey and did not finish.

Constantin Rieger, the racing commission's executive director, said an investigator for the agency is looking into the accident. He said Pace was from Devine, Texas.

The track ran a second race, but after other jockeys learned of Pace's death, they asked that the rest of the card be canceled, Storey said. He deferred further comment to the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, which owns the eastern Oklahoma track.

Choctaw Chief Greg Pyle said in a statement issued Monday that races will continue as scheduled at Blue Ribbon Downs for the remainder of the season. The track is scheduled to run races on Saturdays and Sundays through Nov. 28.

According to Lexington, Ky.-based Equibase Co., which keeps a database of racing information and statistics, Pace had ridden in only two thoroughbred races this year -- the one Sunday and another at Blue Ribbon Downs on Oct. 10. Rhonda Norby, Equibase's marketing and communications manager, said the company's records dating back to 1976 do not show Pace having ridden in another thoroughbred race.

Pace rode in three quarter horse races between 1981 and 1986, according to the Amarillo, Texas-based American Quarter Horse Association.

According to Darrell Haire, the western region manager for The Jockeys' Guild, Pace is the fourth rider to die from injuries sustained in an Oklahoma race since 1940, when the guild began keeping records. Three of the deaths have come at Blue Ribbon Downs.

Of the Oklahoma deaths, Craig Orville died in a race at the Canton City Fair in August 1946. At Blue Ribbon Downs, 16-year-old Kevin Lindsey died in a schooling race in July 1986 and Kemberly Stogner, 36, died in a training race in May 1998.

Haire said 150 jockeys have died in riding accidents in North America since 1940.

The race in which Pace was riding was a 5½-furlong maiden claiming race for fillies and mares 3 years and older with a purse of $5,000.

"I didn't actually know the guy, but nonetheless, he was a jock who was a part of the colony and anytime anything happens to one of them, it strikes close to home and it gets you thinking," longtime quarter horse jockey G.R. Carter said. "This profession, it's not a matter of if you get hurt, it's when and how bad. We all know the chances are there."

Before Pace, Haire said the last riding fatality in North America was Dec. 25, when 36-year-old jockey Sam Thompson Jr. died five days after he was thrown following a race at Los Alamitos in California.

Another jockey also was injured on Saturday night while riding at Remington Park in Oklahoma City. Martin Escobar's mount, Cuvee Blanc, fell a stride after the finish line, and Escobar broke his right hand and suffered a small fracture in his back, according to his agent, Kevin Johnson.

Escobar walked away from the incident under his own power but will likely miss four to six weeks because of his injuries.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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