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Exercise rider dies after training accident at Woodbine Racetrack

Last Updated Sep 8, 2017 at 6:14 pm EDT

A 43-year-old exercise rider has died after a collision between horses at Toronto’s Woodbine Racetrack.

Darren Fortune died after a training accident on the main track early Friday morning, Woodbine Entertainment Group (WEG) said in a statement.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of one of our community this morning and our hearts and condolences go out to his family and friends,” said Jamie Martin, WEG’s executive vice-president of racing.

Const. Craig Brister said Toronto police were called after two horses collided with each other. He said the rider of one of the horses fell and was injured.

Brister added the rider was taken to hospital and later died.

“The horse for some reason bolted and there was a strange collision and (Fortune) unfortunately passed from his injuries,” Martin told reporters.

“It was definitely a freak incident. I mean, it’s a dangerous occupation riding thoroughbreds in the morning here. We do have incidents, but it’s very, very rare that it results in this sort of outcome.”

Martin said Fortune, a father of two, was an experienced exercise rider and outrider and had worked at Woodbine for at least 20 years.

“He was a great, always happy, pretty easygoing guy. He’s going to be missed by all of us,” Martin said.

Jockey Sunny Singh, who knew Fortune for about 20 years, came to the track on Friday to lay flowers in the rider’s memory.

“It’s horses and these things do happen,” he said. “Unfortunately it happened to a real good man today.

“My heart fell apart … it’s very hard.”

The Ministry of Labour and other officials were investigating. No horses were harmed in the accident, WEG said.

An eight-race card scheduled to begin Friday afternoon was cancelled.

WEG said in honour of Fortune, it would hold a moment of silence after Saturday’s seventh race, around 4:30 p.m. Jockeys, valets and gate crew, as well as some of the grooms, will wear black arm bands.