A HORRIFIED Racing Victoria was forced to cancel a race meeting yesterday after suspected activists drove steel stakes into the track at Kilmore.
Walking the track before the first race, stewards found the star droppers – about 40cm long – driven into the track, about 2m off the running rail around the 400m mark.
Echuca Racing Club president Leigh Newton, who described the act as “sickening” said he would be urgently reviewing CCTV from around his track to make sure this was not a widespread problem.
“You just can’t think what would have been going through their minds,” Newton said.
“(Our track is) used six or seven days a week with a various number of events, it’s also Crown land and is used by runners, dog walkers and community groups,” he added.
“Potentially that kind of thing could happen here, it could also happen at football ovals or soccer grounds – it’s scary to think.
“It’s not only disappointing; it’s potentially incredibly dangerous. To know someone would do something like this and put jockeys’ and horses’ lives in danger, it’s just appalling,” he said.
“At Kilmore (yesterday), the stewards did a great job in finding them, so it didn’t become a serious problem.”
Mick Cornish, of Cornish Gaskin Racing, said the outcome could have been “catastrophic” had the posts not been found.
“The industry is very lucky the stewards found them on race day,” he said.
“A rider coming down onto that, they would have been impaled.
“We expect to go to work and come home to our families at night. It’s a threat to us and those in the industry.”
Mr Cornish said after 35 years in racing he had never seen something so potentially dangerous.
“I’ve heard of horrid things like horse abuse and threats and things like that, but nothing like this where someone has actually gone out and deliberately tried to hurt a horse and rider,” he said.
Country Racing Victoria chief executive Scott Whiteman, in a statement released yesterday, said like all racing participants, customers and supporters, he was “sickened by the events” surrounding Kilmore.
“We all know the risks involved in Thoroughbred racing and the bravery required of our jockeys every time they saddle up to ride.
“It is incomprehensible that anyone would seek to endanger them or their mounts.
“We commend the stewards for their diligence in uncovering this sabotage and, undoubtedly, saving human and equine lives as a result.
“Today is a sad day for the racing game. We will await a police investigation before commenting further,” he said.