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Monday, 10 December, 2018

Peter McNeile leads tributes following loss of brother James

James McNeile: the point-to-point rider died on Sunday
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Peter McNeile on Monday reflected on losing his amateur-rider brother James McNeile to a "terribly unfortunate accident" after he suffered a brain injury in a fall at Larkhill point-to-point on Saturday.

James McNeile, a 57-year-old financial adviser from Devizes, was riding his own horse Pointview Gale in a maiden contest at the Wiltshire course when his mount ran into the wing of a fence.

McNeile was attended by paramedics on course before being airlifted to hospital in Southampton, where he died on Sunday. He is the seventh rider to have died as a result of a point-to-point injury since 1975.

A statement from the Injured Jockeys Fund said: "James fell in the 3.45 race and collided with the fence, sustaining a significant head injury. He was attended immediately by the racecourse medical team, which included consultants in emergency medicine and intensive care and anaesthetics, as well as paramedics.

"It was immediately apparent this was a substantial brain injury and after stabilisation he was flown by air ambulance to Southampton Hospital. He was ventilated from the time of the accident.

"On arrival and after subsequent examination it became apparent the degree of brain damage was such that this was not a survivable injury. James deteriorated overnight and died peacefully on Sunday."

McNeile, a lifelong racing enthusiast, took up point-to-point riding only in his fifties. He rode four winners, the first two being walkovers before partnering his first competitive winner two years ago, and became a popular figure on the circuit.

His brother Peter, the former head of sponsorship at Cheltenham and now involved in the promotion and sponsorship of point-to-pointing and chairman of Andoversford races, said: "James was very enthusiastic and very committed. He didn't have a chance to ride as a young man and took it up later in life.

"He has been a racing man through and through from the time we first went to the Grand National in 1969 for Highland Wedding, when I was six and he was nine.

"This had been his third season and he had three horses on the go. He had ridden a winner and had some places. It's a ghastly shame."

James McNeile was a season ticket holder at Manchester United who had clients at the club and was acquainted with former manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

"He was running a financial services business looking after some very high-net-worth individuals," Peter McNeile said. "His riding was a way to relieve the stress.

"He was supremely fit. He liked to challenge himself, always liked to push the boundaries. People really warmed to him because he was going for it. He wasn't going at a married man's pace. It was a terribly unfortunate accident."

McNeile was one of jockey coach Dave Crosse's regular pupils. "James was 57 and always my eldest pupil but also the hardest-working one as well," said Crosse. "He wasn't a natural rider but made up for it by working so hard."

Certification to ride in point-to-points is provided by the affiliated Hunt committee, while the BHA manages the standards for medical fitness to ride, which are set at the same level as for professional jockeys.

The BHA, which governs the amateur sport of point-to-point racing through the Point to Point Authority, Larkhill and the Avon Vale Hunt jointly expressed their sadness at McNeile's death.

They said there were three doctors and two ambulances with a paramedic team in attendance at the fixture, in accordance with required standards.

"Despite the immediate and extended medical attention, the injuries were of such an extent it was not possible to save his life, and James passed away peacefully in hospital the following day," a statement said.

“What is important is that, from any incident such as this is, we do all that we can to understand what caused it, and then see if there's anything we can learn from the incident.

"These processes are already under way. All relevant bodies will also assist the police force with any inquiries they may wish to make, and assist the racecourse to carry out a full review of the incident.”

McNeile was married to Henrietta and had three children, Miles, 21, Matilda, 20, and Rachel, 16. Funeral details will be announced in due course.

He was running a financial services business looking after some very high net worth individuals. His riding was a way to relieve the stress

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