To my eyes, jockeys are collectively the most amazing athletes, mostly because they perform under extreme conditions every time they ride. Forced to maintain unnatural low weights and yet display incredible physical skills, they jump aboard 1,200 lb animals of wildly-diverse temperaments and abilities with nothing more than a flak jacket and helmet to protect them from the unspeakable. I admire their fearlessness, their drive and their courage.
That said, we witnessed the most amazing resolve today when, just half an hour after learning his father was tragically killed in a car accident, top Aussie jockey Craig Newitt rode Light Fantastic to a narrow second-place finish in the G1 Futurity at Caulfield. The race start was delayed as the stewards informed Newitt of what had occurred, expecting that he would need to be replaced on his remaining mounts. However, Newitt decided to ride both Light Fantastic and his mount in the listed JRA Stakes, Nine Tales.
Even from half-way around the world, the overwhelming sense of shock and grief on track permeated the video broadcast. I can’t remember the last time I so passionately wanted a horse to win, as undoubtedly Newitt rode for the opportunity to honor his father. And as they turned for home, the gray Light Fantastic looked a winner only to be caught and passed by multiple-G1 winner Niconero—just by a neck. In the next race, the heavily-favored Nine Tales likewise finished second, two lengths behind Falaise. No fairytale ending.
Still, as a former jockey married to former jockey Virginia Wells—and son of a jockey himself—Guy Newitt is surely and proudly smiling down on his son today. Godspeed.