UK racing was in mourning on Friday night after stalls handler Stephen Yarborough died after suffering serious injuries in an incident before the fourth race at Haydock.
Yarborough was in his role as team leader at the Merseyside course when he was involved in an accident with the starting stalls before the running of the fourth race, which was scheduled for 3.30pm.
The horses had been in the parade ring, but were marshalled to return to their stables. Reportedly, a tractor pulling the stalls into place bumped into and ran over Yarborough, nicknamed “Yarbie” by his colleagues. (Note: Exact details of incident not confirmed by police).
His employers RaceTech said in a statement: “Following a tragic accident today our dear friend and colleague Stephen Yarborough sadly passed away following serious injuries incurred in his role of Team Leader of the Starting Stalls at Haydock Park Racecourse.”
RaceTech supply teams to operatate the starting stalls, photo finish equipment for racecourse judges and cameras for stewards, as well as providing an extensive service for Racing UK.
John Bozza, chief executive at RaceTech, expressed his shock and sympathy, saying: “Our thoughts are very much with Stephen’s family, close friends and his colleagues at this very sad time.
“Stephen was an experienced and popular member of the team; he will be hugely missed by everyone. We are doing all we can to support Stephen’s family and the investigation at this stage.”
The RaceTech Twitter feed posted: “We were deeply saddened to hear our friend & colleague Stephen Yarborough passed away today. Thoughts with family & friends at this sad time.”
Black armbands will be worn by jockeys at all seven British meetings on Saturday, according to the Professional Jockeys Association.
Yarborough had been flown to Whiston Hospital by air ambulance and admitted to intensive care. The remainder of the meeting was abandoned, with the police arriving to the scene.
The stewards held an inquiry, at which they interviewed the race starters and clerk of the course Kirkland Tellwright, who represented the Racecourse Executive.
Tellwright informed the stewards the executive had taken the decision to abandon the rest of the card as “the police had been informed of the accident and were due to arrive at the track to conduct their inquiries”.
The official Stewards Report said: “The Stewards held an enquiry following a report from the Starters that a member of the Stalls Team had been injured prior to Race 4. They interviewed both Starters and the Clerk of the Course who was representing the Racecourse Executive. The Clerk of the Course stated that the Racecourse Executive had taken the decision to abandon the remainder of the day’s racing as the police had been informed of the accident and were due to arrive to conduct their enquiries. This decision was sanctioned by the Stewards.”
The Saturday evening meeting scheduled for Haydock – due to feature Culture Club in a concert after racing – appeared set to go ahead.
A post on the track’s Twitter feed read: “Following the abandonment of racing today, currently Saturday’s fixture will go ahead as planned.”
A Justgiving page was set up with jockey Jamie Spencer leading the way with a donation of £1000.
The jockey wrote on his Twitter page: “Rest In Peace Stephen Yarborough, all of the stalls teams are unsung hero’s and do a very dangerous job.”
-Extrcats from Racing UK, Racing Post, Sporting Life.