Woodworth pulls off act of bravery at trials

In horse racing, unsung heroes are aplenty, but if there was one who deserved a special medal of bravery at Kranji on Tuesday morning, it was jockey Benny Woodworth.

Jockey - BENNY WOODWORTH Picture: Macau Jockey Club

The feat happened in a mundane barrier trial where the Malaysian rider – already praised for his many heroics (of the race-winning kind) on the track this season – showcased two facets of the multi-talented rider he is: Horsemanship and selflessness.

Trainer Donna Logan's senior track rider Syafiq Hazman (Shane Baertschiger's former apprentice jockey) was in strife when he lost his right iron shortly after Qiji Acheeva bolted his way to the lead in the barrier trial.

Woodworth, who was aboard the next horse behind, Supermax, could see his colleague struggling to regain his stirrup - and as a result, finding himself in a fairly precarious spot of bother.

Without a second's hesitation, even with the knowledge both horses were inexperienced two-year-olds, Woodworth took his mount alongside Syafiq. Instinctively, he first reached for the iron, but with two horses galloping full bore at 65kph, he realised that attempt was both futile and dangerous, putting both himself and Syafig and the two other riders (Saifudin Ismail and Mark Ewe) following behind in harm's way.

Instead, Woodworth nudged his horse a little more forward so he could grab Qiji Acheeva's offside rein in a bid to ease the speed off. From the 750m all the way to the top of the straight, Woodworth skillfully held the rein while keeping his own ride on a straight path with his right hand, effectively achieving two things - slow Qiji Acheeva down and keep him safely under control on the rails.

It was only after Syafiq was able to secure his foot back in the iron that Woodworth let go of the rein – and the barrier trial was completed without any further mishap.

Such rescue is not the first of its kind in the racing world, but it certainly highlighted Woodworth's selfless act of bravery, and the spirit of camaraderie among fellow jockeys despite the fiercely competitive nature of their job.

Woodworth, who currently sits in third spot on 27 winners on the Singapore log, 16 behind leader Vlad Duric, however, played down the feat.

"It's not a big deal. Any other jockey would have done the same thing. I was just helping another jockey in danger," said Woodworth.

"I actually wanted to help him regain his iron, but I couldn't do it, and decided to hold his horse instead. That slowed the horse down, and Syafiq could get his iron back."

Supermax went on to win the trial with Syafiq allowing Qiji Acheeva to stride to the line in last place – just happy to be still on top.

"At first, I thought Benny wanted to lead when he came beside me at the 800m," said Syafiq.

"Then I saw him grab my right rein. Thanks to him, I was able to regain the iron at the 350m.

"Benny's already a great guy, and to do what he did, makes him even greater. He did it all for the safety of a fellow rider.

"We never know what could have happened, it could have gone wrong. Benny, thank you for helping me out and preventing a more serious incident from happening."

Logan, who saw the whole drama unfold in front of her, commended Woodworth for his bravery and sportsmanship.

"We could see what was happening from where we were – when Syafiq's horse jumped, he lost his iron and Benny came helping out right round the bend," said the Kiwi handler.

"It was pretty brave of Benny to do what he did, especially on a two-year-old. It also shows the great comradeship that exists among jockeys.

"It was very impressive and I was quite taken by that."

To view Woodworth's amazing stunt, click here. He is in yellow silks while Syafiq is in the Logan colours in blue checks and white sleeves.

Singapore Turf Club