A pause for thought

8 January 2024 Written by Patrick Bartley

A traditional blessing of the track at Flemington commemorates those who have lost their lives, as we pause to remember them and hope for a safe season ahead for all riders and horses.

Some years ago, the Jockeys Association decided to conduct a ceremony at the Flemington race meeting to remember those who have died or been injured in track falls.

Father Joe Giacobbe is invited to bless the track, and one minute’s silence is observed by the Flemington crowd and jockeys.

“It’s a special time for all of the industry throughout Australia to look at the work that the jockeys do, and the safety risks involved in those tasks,” Victorian Jockeys Association CEO Matt Hyland said.

“It’s a great chance to be in a position to stop and remember those who have fallen.”

Described by Father Giacobbe as a nondenominational ceremony that is “all-inclusive, no matter your belief”, he urges people to never lose sight of the dangers jockeys are placed in on a daily basis. “It was former great jockey Alf Matthews who quipped, ‘we are in the only occupation in the world that can’t start work before the ambulance arrives on track’”, said Father Giacobbe.

For Father Giacobbe, founder of the racing paper, The Winning Post and of the Doxa Youth Foundation, which supports young people experiencing disadvantage to achieve greatness through educational and employment programs, the day at Flemington is an important one for the industry.