Coroner reserves findings in death of Mundy

13:56, May 23 2014
Ashlee Mundy
ASHLEE MUNDY: Carved out an impressive record as a jockey in New Zealand riding 232 winners.

Otago-Southland coroner David Crerar has reserved his findings into the death of jockey Ashlee Mundy, 26, who fell during a race at Kurow in 2012.

Elleaye, carrying Mundy, fell about halfway through the 1400m race 7 of the meeting, on December 30, 2012.

The jockey received a major brain injury and died in Dunedin Hospital the next day.

In videos shown to the inquest in Dunedin this morning, the coroner noted Elleaye had tucked its hoof back just before the fall.

Nigel McIntyre, a stipendiary steward with the Christchurch branch of the Racing Integrity Unit on duty the day of the meeting, said this afternoon he believed the lower leg of Mundy's horse had been in contact with the horse in front of it.

With the help slow-motion screening of the race, McIntyre explained how horses correcting as they went into a bend in the track, caused the pack to straighten up. Mundy's horse had brushed the lower hind leg of the horse in front, causing it to hesitate stepping forward.

"As a result it has gone straight down," McIntyre said.

"I've never seen a horse fall without striking another horse. There is usually a reason." He watched 1000 races a year.

"In most cases you can see it coming, but in this case it was just instant."

The coroner said on a balance of probabilities it looked as though the horses had indeed clipped heels.

In reserving his decision, he advised Mundy's father, Lochie Mundy, he wasn't sure if there could be any recommendations towards making the industry safer.

"There was no evidence of failures. When racehorses are travelling at 60kmh things happen, and they happen very quickly." 

A report by the Racing Integrity Unit after the incident had stated Mundy was dislodged when Elleaye fell approaching the 600-metre mark, made heavy contact with the ground and was then struck by a trailing runner.

The coroner said a pathologist's report concluded she had not been struck but died from cerebral injuries.

Senior Constable Craig Bennett, of Kurow, said in court today after a full review of race evidence and videos it appeared that was the case.

Jockeys Toni Direen and Courtney Barnes, giving individual evidence, said there was no apparent reason why Elleaye fell during the race.

Kurow Jockey Club president, Omarama farmer Simon Williamson, said the Kurow track had been inspected the morning of the race meeting and conditions were ''ideal".

Stipendiary steward with the Racing Integrity Unit based in Dunedin, Kevin Davidson, said horses were ''fickle animals".

They generally didn't ''go down" for no reason but it did happen. One thing that struck him after watching the race on television was how quickly Elleaye ''dropped to the ground" during the race, he said.

The coroner asked whether Elleaye had raced since the incident.

Davidson said he believed it had raced but had now been retired.

One of the police officers in court, Senior Constable Rob Murray of Dunedin said, "we understand it wasn't that great a horse".

Jockey Jamie Bullard, the most experienced rider in the race, said this afternoon he did not see Mundy fall but described her fatal fall as a freak accident.

On viewing the race footage he said a horse would normally stumble if its heel was clipped.

"I've never seen that before. It just collapsed to the ground." 

Another Christchurch-based stipendiary steward, Jeffrey McLaughlin, said vet inspections after the race showed Elleaye had "no abnormalities".

Mundy was in New Zealand on a working holiday and riding on the annual Christmas and New Year period circuit when she fell.

Based on the Gold Coast, in Queensland, Mundy had carved out an impressive record as a jockey in New Zealand before her departure to Australia.

She rode 232 career winners in New Zealand, including four in listed races.

During her 24 months on the Gold Coast she had ridden 43 winners.

Her death was the first time a jockey died in New Zealand from injuries suffered in a race day fall since 2005, when 16-year-old Sam McRae died.