Johnston calls for straps on blindfolds after Brighton fatality
Leading Flat trainer Mark Johnston reckons he has a way of preventing the incident that led to Just Marion dying after running loose with a blindfold on at Brighton on Monday.
The five-year-old had been due to run in a 7f apprentice handicap under Louis Steward, but got loose before he was able to take the blindfold off and suffered injuries trainer Clare Ellam described as horrific.
Classic-winning trainer Johnston, who has one of the biggest strings in Britain, thinks he has a solution to stop such instances happening, suggesting the hood is strapped to a rider's wrist, so it will come off if the jockey is unseated.
"I don't want to see it happen again, so I came up with the simple idea of a cord from the blindfold to a Velcro strap which fits around the rider's wrist before the blindfold is put on the horse," Johnston wrote on his website.
"If the rider comes off the horse, the blindfold comes too. Once in the starting stalls, the rider transfers the strap to the superstructure of the stalls. If the rider fails to pull the blindfold off when the stalls open, the horse will leave it behind attached to the stalls.
"We introduced it at Kingsley Park and always have it in place when a blindfold is used during stalls practice. Apart from preventing a horrendous accident like the one that occurred yesterday, it means the rider can concentrate on staying on if the horse rears or becomes fractious with the blindfold on, rather than snatching for the blindfold. You see that situation regularly on our racecourses."
Johnston, who started training in 1987, added there was little interest from the BHA and Professional Jockeys Association when he suggested the idea to them.
A BHA spokesman said on Wednesday: "We're looking into all the circumstances surrounding the incident at Brighton on Monday. As always we consider any factors which might impact on the welfare of horse and rider, and where appropriate implement change in an effort to minimise a repeat of incidents."