Kieran Kelly, one of Ireland's leading jump jockeys and a winner at the Cheltenham Festival in March, died yesterday evening from head injuries sustained in a steeplechase at Kilbeggan on Friday night.
The 25-year-old had been on a life support machine in a Dublin hospital since falling from Balmy Native and being kicked by a following horse.
Kelly, from Carbury in Co Kildare, had his finest hour when riding Hardy Eustace, trained by his boss Dessie Hughes, to win the Royal & SunAlliance Hurdle, his first Cheltenham success. The last two races at Gowran Park last night were abandoned when the news of his death came through.
Race-riding is a high-risk sport: the British jumps champion, Tony McCoy, is recovering from a broken arm while the career of the Flat champion, Kieren Fallon, was threatened by serious shoulder injuries two years ago. But deaths are comparatively rare - since the war, 39 jockeys have been killed in action in Britain, 12 since 1970.
The most famous fatality was Manny Mercer, one of 15 who died during the dreadful decade of the Fifties, and the most recent on a track was Richard Davis in a steeple-chase at Southwell in 1996. The amateur Trevor Radford died two months after a fall at Goodwood three years ago, aged 64.
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