STEVE WOOD was in many ways an unsung hero, a Flat-race jockey totally dedicated to his job, carving a solid career in an unsteady profession. On Friday he became a tragic reminder of the dangers of horseracing when he was killed in a fall at Lingfield. He was the sixth jockey to be killed on a British racecourse in the past 12 years and the first Flat jockey since Joe Blanks lost his life at Brighton in 1984.
Wood was not one of the sport's leading figures, but was well known and respected as an honest, reliable and talented professional. In nine years, he rode 129 winners from more than 2,000 rides. His biggest career wins were the Tote Bookmakers Sprint Trophy at York, on Chaplin's Club, in 1988, and the pounds 20,000 Mail on Sunday Handicap at Newmarket, which he won on Gallipoli in 1990.
Wood was one of a type of jockey - a lightweight, weighing just 7st 7lb - slipping out of fashion. A change in weight bands last season has reduced the opportunities for the lightest jockeys and Wood found rides increasingly hard to come by. His colleagues said he could have made more money outside racing, but he loved race riding and would not quit the sport.
Wood first became involved with racing when he left his home city of Sheffield to join the trainer George Moore in Middleham, at the age of 18. Moore coined Wood's abiding nickname of 'Samson', because he was so strong for his size. Moore supplied two of the winners when Wood rode the only treble of his career, as a 21-year-old at Catterick, but Wood moved on after three years to David Chapman, best known as the trainer of the brilliant sprinter Soba. Chapman is something of a master at training sprinters, and Wood enjoyed winning associations with four of the most successful: Chaplins Club, Glencroft, Sully's Choice and Kabcast.
Wood benefited from the introduction of all-weather racing at Lingfield, Southwell, and since December, Wolverhampton, which has increased the total of meetings. He partnered the Chapman-trained Tempering to 11 wins. But a wrist injury resulted in his missing several winning rides in the first few months of this year, and his last winner - on Kalar, the horse on which he was killed - was as long ago as last August.
Wood lived with his fiancee, Michaela Graham, and their two- year-old son, in Easingwold, North Yorkshire. His former wife Tracey works as travelling head lad to Kalar's trainer, David Chapman, and was working at Lingfield the day that Wood was killed.
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