By Darren Cartwright
The racing fraternity is rallying around seriously injured apprentice jockey Leah Kilner with an online fundraiser having already accrued more than three times the target.
Leah was transported by helicopter to Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane on Sunday after her mount fell about 100m from the winning post at Grafton, in the NSW northern rivers region.
The 24-year-old had been initially listed as critical although her condition had improved to stable and she remained in ICU, said her master, trainer Rob Heathcote.
"She is in a stable condition and there's a long road ahead," Rob said.
"The support shown for her has been unbelievable and overwhelming and when there is adversity, you will find this industry pull together and step up.
"It just shows the reverence that this 24-year-old is held in. She is universally loved.
"She has been within us 11 months and she has never been critical of anybody, and she always has a smile on her face."
Also on Monday, a GoFundMe page had been established to assist with her medical bills and recovery, with a base target of $10,000.
By 1pm on Wednesday, the tally was $33,000 and climbing and among the heartfelt pledges were donations from Hong Kong-based hoop Blake Shinn and jockeys Ben and Stephanie Thompson.
Queensland Jockeys’ Association representative Pam O’Neill said they, and the National Jockey’s Trust, had reached out to the family to offer their sympathy, prayers and help for Leah.
She said that there appeared to be no shortage of organisations wanting to assist Leah.
“We’re ready to step in anytime and so is the National Jockeys Trust,” Ms O’Neill said.
“The help is all around, but there is a long road ahead and at least there are no spinal injuries.”
The GoFundMe page organiser Karen Fitzsimons wrote about the joy Leah had brought to many, as an apprentice to Heathcote, and her association with four-year-old gelding The Big Goodbye.
She has ridden The Big Goodbye six times for three wins and three placings.
“Leah has been an inspiration to us all,” Fitzsimons wrote.
“She has partnered with Rob and The Big Goodbye and brought joy to many.
“Her talented riding skills have allowed us to celebrate something many of us have spent a lifetime thinking was impossible.
“If we all gave $5 we could help contribute to Leah’s medical bills and recovery until she gets back on the saddle.”