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Former Canberra jockey Ray Silburn in intensive care unit

The thoughts and prayers of the racing community are with former Canberra jockey Ray Silburn after he was admitted to the intensive care unit of a Canberra hospital on Friday.

Silburn, who is quadriplegic after a race fall at Thoroughbred Park in 2005, was hospitalised to have a blockage in his bowel removed and for an appendix problem. He has contracted an infection in hospital, too. 

Racing industry chaplain Pastor Bob Prior has known Silburn for more than 10 years. He visited him when he was first admitted to hospital last week. "He was feeling pretty down, but anyone would be like that in those circumstances,'' Prior said.

"For the last three or four months, he's been as good as I've seen him since his fall. He's been so positive; he's really developing some interests and he's been going really well and then this happens.''

Silburn was riding Caza Ladron in one of the minor races as part of the Black Opal Stakes carnival in 2005 when the horse crashed on top of the fallen jockey, 250 metres from the finishing post.

Silburn almost died in the ambulance on the way to hospital, and spent eight days in an induced coma. Nine months later he left hospital in a wheelchair.


The 46-year-old loves racing and has been a vocal campaigner for improving safety for jockeys, and helping to establish the National Jockeys Trust. "One of his strengths is that he's always trying to do things for other people,'' Prior said. "He'll fight for things that others in his situations haven't got, so that keeps him going.

"I've known him since just before his fall. All of his family and friends were told he was going to be a vegetable for the rest of his life. He's far from being a vegetable. He works his own computer and he gets the chance to advacote for all these people."

National Jockeys Trust national manager Tony Crisafi  said everyone's thoughts and prayers are with Silburn, who was one of several jockeys to suffer a serious fall before the trust was established in 2004.

Crisafi said the organisation has helped almost 200 injured jockeys and their families in those 10 years, and nearly $2 million has been distributed.

The national jockey celebration day was held last weekend, with every racetrack in Australia having a minute's silence and saying a prayer to remember their fallen colleagues. Prior conducted the ceremony at last Friday's Thoroughbred Park meeting.

Monday is the first anniversary of the death of jockey Simone Montgomerie at the Darwin Cup meeting. "Over the next 10 years, 10 to 12 jockeys will die and 30 to 40 will suffer severe brain injury, paraplegia or quadraplegia,'' Crisafi said. "We had 850 jockeys registered, so it's pretty dangerous, as you can see.

"It's improved through the improved conditions with occupational health and safety, the improved helmets, the improved vests, improved running rails. So there's been a lot of improvements to the jockey's welfare.

"One death is one too many,'' Crisafi  said.