Exercise rider dead after being crushed by horse at Woodbine racetrack

An exercise rider died Tuesday after being crushed by a thoroughbred at Toronto’s Woodbine Racetrack.

TORONTO — An exercise rider died Tuesday after being crushed by a thoroughbred at Toronto’s Woodbine Racetrack.

The rider, who police say was crushed into the track railing and then by the weight of the horse as it collapsed, was identified by racetrack officials as Mourad Boudraa, 40.

Toronto police said the man was in the saddle around 6 a.m. Tuesday when the horse went into an “unexplained wild gallop,” showing signs of medical distress.

The horse, Tawney’s Wish, died of what Woodbine Racetrack officials said was believed to be a heart attack. The three-year-old dark filly had one start this year and $368 in winnings.

Mike Pownall, an equine veterinarian, said the horse’s cause of death will be speculation until a necropsy is performed. The Ontario Racing Commission requires a necropsy whenever a racehorse dies, he added.

“It’s like when you find those athletes that suddenly die and you find there’s a heart defect, that would be the human equivalency,” Pownall said. “You have no idea it was existing, or you could prevent it, or you could do anything to alter the course.”

In 2011, Canadian Olympic champion Eric Lamaze was riding his horse Hickstead in Italy when the animal suddenly collapsed and died of an acute aortic rupture. The horse had carried Lamaze to gold and silver at the Beijing Olympics in show jumping.

The Ontario Racing Commission collects information for a database on common racehorse injuries in the hopes of minimizing future problems, Pownall said.

For Pownall, working with horses carries inherent risk. He said those involved in the industry are all too aware of what can go wrong.

“They know the potential for unexplained, sudden things to happen,” he said. “It’s a hazard of the job.”

But in the tight-knit horse racing community in Canada, word travels fast when there is an injury or fatality, he said.

“I was sad for the horse, sad for the rider. Nobody wants that. I’m proud of the riders that go out there every day and proud of the horses that go out there,” he said, adding that Woodbine Racetrack is a “well-regarded track” in terms of safety standards.

Officials from the provincial Ministry of Labour are investigating the accident.

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