Racing: Jockey dies in Lingfield fall: Fatality after Flat pile-up

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STEVE WOOD, one of the country's finest lightweight Flat jockeys, was killed in a fall at Lingfield yesterday. Wood, who was 26, suffered severe chest injuries after Kalar, his mount in the Moorhen Handicap, stumbled and threw him into the turf.

Kalar was among the leaders and the fall set off a chain reaction with two other horses unseating their riders. Wood was kicked by one of the runners behind, Purbeck Centenary, whose jockey, Paul Eddery, said: 'I could see the accident was going to happen. Normally, horses try to avoid anything when they see it on the ground but this time he had nowhere to go. He had another horse on his left and the rails on the right.'

Two doctors, a paramedic and an ambulancemen gave Wood intensive resuscitation for 10 minutes but he was pronounced dead while still on the track. His death adds to the atmosphere of tragedy in sport after the recent deaths of racing drivers Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger, and the boxer Bradley Stone.

The last rider to be killed on a British racecourse was Philip Barnard, after a fall at Wincanton on Boxing Day 1991, though no Flat jockey had died in a race since Joe Blanks, at Brighton in 1981.

Yesterday's accident occurred after about two furlongs of the five- furlong sprint on one of the fastest tracks in the country. The other riders unseated, Tony Clark and Chris Dwyer, escaped serious injury. Clark's foot was caught in his stirrup and he was dragged along the ground for 100 yards. Dwyer, who was unconscious briefly, was detained in hospital for observation.

Wood's death will leave racing numb, following so soon after the serious head injury sustained by Declan Murphy in a National Hunt race at Haydock Park on Monday. Murphy was critically ill and unconscious for more than 48 hours, but is now making a rapid recovery. He may even be able to ride again.

Falls are a fact of life for jump jockeys, but while they are much rarer on the Flat, they tend to be more serious since the horses are running much faster. In a sprint such as yesterday's Moorhen Handicap, they are at top speed from the moment the stalls open. Wood was wearing a body protector - they have been compulsory for Flat jockeys since 1992 - but it could not diminish the force of his fall.

Mark Birch, the senior northern jockey, said: 'Steve was a good kid, unassuming and very likeable. He would do anything and go anywhere for a ride. He earned the nickname 'Sampson' because he was so strong for a jockey of his size (7st 7lb).'

Wood rode his first winner at Ayr in July 1986and was jockey to the Stillington, Yorkshire, stable of David Chapman. He was divorced, with one son. (Photograph omitted)