ECHUCA Racing Club’s last meeting of 2017 was thrown into confusion yesterday when its attending ambulance was diverted for a medical emergency.
A patron at the track fell ill and had to be treated and then taken to Echuca hospital.
The jockeys were on their way to the barrier for the fifth race on the card when the patron fell in.
Stewards recalled the horses, which were unsaddled and taken back to their stalls while the final three races were rearranged.
Chief steward Peter Ryan said the woman was seriously ill and the race was postponed, even though the horses had been on the track, because they did not know how long there would be no medical cover.
So race five, originally set for 3.20pm, was put back to 4pm, race six went from 4pm to 4.35pm and race seven from 4.35pm to 5pm.
“With such a tight schedule of racing today we have had no choice but to move the rest of the meeting back a race,” Ryan said.
“We will have an ambulance back in time for the re-start,” he said.
“We would like to have run the last race a bit earlier but 5pm was the only slot we could find without clashing with another meeting.”
Echuca Racing Club chief executive Leigh Newton said this sort of disruption is not all that unusual, although this was the first time this had happened in his 18 months at the club.
But said obviously the critical thing was making sure the sick patron received the best possible care and transferred to the hospital at the earliest opportunity.
“Racing Victoria is responsible for ambulances at all tracks – we have one ambulance and a second, emergency response unit, at each meeting,” Newton said.
“But once the ambulance is gone there’s nothing we can do until it comes back, and fortunately it did return in plenty of time for the new race times,” he said.
“With more than 2000 patrons here for the New Year’s Eve meeting – plus all the jockeys – there would be no question of taking a punt everything would be OK.
“The vet also had to check all the horses before the restart as they had done their warm-ups on track before the emergency changed everything.”
When the race was run first-year apprentice Lachlan King steered High Hopper home despite the race favourite looming alongside with about 100m left to run.
But the teenager stayed calm and counterattacked to win by a long neck.
King, who has just completed his first full year of racing, made his professional debut at Echuca in November 2016 and with High Hopper’s win yesterday had ridden 72 winners that have won almost $1.5 million in prize money.
But it got better for the apprentice when he saddled Laker’s Lass in the sixth.