Racing unites in grief following death of stable groom Ken Dooley
Sport in shock following tragic incident in racecourse stable on Saturday night
Racing was trying to come to terms with the death of a member of its core workforce on Sunday after Ken Dooley, a groom who worked for trainer Amanda Perrett, died at Kempton in an incident that led to the abandonment of racing on Saturday night.
Dooley, who was in his 50s, is believed to have suffered a kick to the head in the racecourse stables shortly after two horses from the Perrett team had run on the all-weather card.
His was the second death on a racecourse this year following the stalls incident at Haydock in July which claimed the life of RaceTech stalls handler Stephen Yarborough.
Dooley had worked for Perrett's stables in Pulborough, West Sussex for seven years and had a wealth of experience of racing. He was married and a popular member of the team.
Champion jockey Jim Crowley, who was riding at Goodwood on Sunday, where jockeys observed a minute's silence and wore black armbands out of respect, said: "Ken was a lovely guy, a funny guy with a good sense of humour. He loved his horses. It’s very sad for everybody. You don’t expect that to happen."
Perrett said in a statement on Sunday: "It is with huge sadness that I can confirm we lost our friend and colleague Ken Dooley after an incident in the stable yard at Kempton last night.
"Ken had been with us for seven years and was a very special member of our family business at Coombelands.
"He was an excellent employee, very experienced with racehorses having worked all of his life with them as a jockey, trainer and jockey coach around the world.
"He was always first into work in the morning, hugely enthusiastic and dedicated to his horses and a very much valued and integral member of our team."
The statement added: "I would like to thank my staff, the stable and racecourse staff at Kempton, Hugo Palmer’s travelling head lad, Dr Lucy Free and the ambulance service who were so quickly there to help Ken. Our thoughts are with his family at this very sad time."
A police investigation was launched into the incident that prompted officials at the track to call off the remainder of the meeting before the second-last race.
A police statement said: "Surrey police were called to Kempton Park racecourse in Sunbury-on-Thames at around 9.20pm on Saturday, October 14 following reports of a sudden death.
"It is reported that a man in his 50s sustained a serious injury to the head whilst tending to a horse in the stables. The death is being treated as non-suspicious. His next of kin have been informed.
"Police will be working on behalf of the coroner and in conjunction with the local authority to establish the circumstances surrounding his death."
Racegoers were not aware of the medical emergency before the announcement to abandon racing was made over the public address system before the 8.45 race.
A stewards' inquiry took place after the incident was reported to them by clerk of the course Barney Clifford, who was interviewed by the panel.
The report said: "The clerk of the course stated that the racecourse executive had taken the decision to abandon the remainder of the evening’s racing due to the doctors needing to attend a medical emergency, rendering the course no longer medically compliant to continue racing. This decision was sanctioned by the stewards."
Kempton general manager Steve Parlett said on Sunday: "All the team here are shocked and upset by the sad loss of a training stables employee last night. Our thoughts and deepest condolences are very much with his family, friends and colleagues."
BHA chief executive Nick Rust offered his sympathies on Sunday to those closest to Dooley as he led tributes from industry stakeholders.
Rust said: "I'm sure that I speak for everyone at the BHA and everyone in British horseracing this morning when I state that we're truly devastated about the events which unfolded at Kempton last night.
"Our sympathies go to the family, friends and colleagues of the individual who has lost his life, and the entire industry will join in mourning over this tragedy.
"We owe so much in our sport to the racing grooms who provide such first-class care and attention to our horses. The love and attention that they give to their mounts is unconditional and comes with that small, but ever-present level of risk that exists when working with large animals. This only serves to make their dedication so much more praiseworthy.
"The matter now sits with the Surrey police force. My teams were assisting with their investigations last night and will continue to do so. We ask that everyone shows respect and understanding to this process at present."
The National Trainers Federation also released a statement on Sunday, which read: "The death of a stable employee on Saturday night at Kempton is a tragedy that touches all in racing.
"Reactions across the sport testify to the close bonds that unite us in our common passion, and from the NTF we send our condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of the individual who has lost his life.
"Mercifully, fatal accidents in the course of caring for racehorses in Britain are rare and we acknowledge and salute the commitment of stable employees across the country, who devote their working lives to their horses.
"Since last night we have been advising and supporting the trainer and the team at the yard. British horseracing is fortunate to have an excellent support system for its people and this is at the disposal of anyone in times of need."
The Racecourse Association also issued a statement on Sunday, saying: "We are deeply saddened by the tragic news from Kempton last night and would like to express sincere condolences on behalf of all racecourses to the family, friends and colleagues of the individual who lost his life.
"Racecourses do everything they can to provide a safe working environment in all areas and are equipped to provide the highest level of medical care and attention whenever it is required.
"This tragic accident is a reminder of the dangerous nature of the work stable staff do day in day out, and our thoughts are very much with everybody affected at this difficult time."
Anyone affected by the incident can seek support through Racing Welfare. There is a 24-hour helpline on 0800 6300 443, and online live chat is also available at www.support.racingwelfare.co.