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Unsung hero averts Te Rapa disaster

  • Fri, 25 May 2018
  • NZ Racing Desk
Andrew 'Ledge' Leadbeater is being praised for his quick thinking at Te Rapa last Saturday.

Andrew 'Ledge' Leadbeater is being praised for his quick thinking at Te Rapa last Saturday.

A potentially life-threatening situation at last weekend’s Te Rapa race meeting was narrowly avoided thanks to the quick thinking and bravery of one of the raceday staff on duty.

Andrew ‘Ledge’ Leadbeater was the man seen on television screens across the country last Saturday rescuing apprentice rider Tayla Wenn from the Te Rapa starting gates after her mount became agitated prior to the start of race seven.

Leadbeater is a member of the Northern Raceday Services starting gates crew, who attend all racedays, trial meetings and official jumpouts in the geographic region from Taupo through to Ruakaka. He was on duty when the incident unfolded. 

Wenn was briefly knocked unconscious when three-year-old filly Marzemino reared up in her stall, causing the rider to strike her head against the gate. Having fallen underneath the horse, Wenn was incapacitated and in danger of being severely trampled as the horse struggled to regain its feet.

In a split second Leadbeater, a 12-year veteran of the gate crew, had reached the rider and swiftly dragged her to safety away from the barrier stall and clear of any danger. 

“Just out of the corner of my eye I saw some white colours getting flung backwards,” Leadbeater said.

“You knew straight away there was going to be a problem and I could see the horse in an awkward position. I just managed to get across there before the horse came down on her and pulled her out underneath the gate.

“At that stage she was in a bit of shock and quite dizzy from such a heavy blow, so it was a matter of getting her away from the trouble.

“She came to a little then and was sort of saying about her neck hurting, so I had to stop in mid-stride and keep her as still as possible until the paramedics could get to her.”

Wenn has little recollection of what actually took place during the incident, but she knows she has Leadbeater to thank for saving her from serious injury.

“My filly was getting a little stirred up and I had asked for a man up with me,” she said. “All I can remember next is waking up as I was being pulled across the grass. I blacked out again and came to in the ambulance.

“I haven’t seen any footage of what happened, but I am so thankful to Andrew and the people who helped me. It could have been really nasty, and I feel very lucky to get away with only some minor bumps and a really stiff neck.”

Leadbeater is quick to downplay his role in the incident as just another day in a job that sees his team working with the local thoroughbred horse pool on a regular basis. 

“This time of the year it’s a bit quiet with a couple of meetings a week, whereas in the summer there are three or four racedays along with trial meetings and jumpouts each week, so you are working with a large number of horses,” he said.

“The good thing is that we get to know most of the horses in the area, which gives you a fair idea of what’s what and what to expect when working with them.

“You know the ones that have special needs, and the trainers are very good at letting you know when there might be a problem. Trial days are best for that, as you can have 30 to 40 heats on a day with more than 200 horses going around.

“I’ve had a few hairy moments over the years, where we have had to pull jockeys out. The main thing is to be as quick as you can, because the longer an incident goes, the worse it can get.

“Thankfully I can’t remember too many really bad ones, as we try and eliminate the risk as best we can.”

Senior rider Michael Coleman had a first-hand view of proceedings as he was in the barrier next to Wenn as the drama unfolded. He has nothing but praise for the work of the gate crew.

“It happened quickly on Saturday, as it usually does, and I think Tayla was very lucky it wasn’t far worse,” he said. 

“Those barrier boys are pretty quick on their feet and they had her out of harm’s way in a flash.

“Even though there are a few ratbag horses out there, thankfully that sort of incident doesn’t happen very often. There have been a couple of times in my career where they’ve grabbed me as I’ve been thrown out the back off one that is getting stirred up.

“Those guys really are unsung heroes and they have saved a lot of riders from some serious injuries, so they deserve all the praise they get.”

As a result of the incident Wenn has been stood down from riding pending a doctor’s clearance. Once she has that, she will need to pass a further head-assessment test before she can resume trackwork and raceday riding.