By Greg Douglas – Dr. Sport


SCENE & HEARD:  The last time veteran jockey Jeffery Burningham won a stakes race at Hastings Racecourse was two, long years ago aboard Venetian Mask in the $50,000 John Longden 6000.

It was a Sunday afternoon – June 4, 2017 – and should have been good reason for Burningham to celebrate long into the night. Owned by George Morgan and trained by Mike Anderson, Venetian Mask made a dramatic late run to beat favourite Modern by two lengths.

Burningham’s golden moment, though, was tarnished because of his concern for apprentice jockey Jose Asencio who suffered a broken back and fractured his leg following a spill two races prior to the featured John Longden 6000.

No stranger to serious riding injuries, Burningham was at Vancouver General Hospital first thing Monday morning to console young Asencio with a message to keep his spirits high and never, ever consider giving up.

This past Monday morning Burningham was back at VGH but this time with his wife Lacie at his bedside in an all-too-familiar scene for this loving couple who’ve stuck by each other through unimaginable trying times.

Jeffery, 47, left the track by ambulance Sunday when his mount Proud Cause clipped heels with the horse in front of him approaching the final turn.  Burningham was unseated and lay motionless on the track until attendants got to him.

Racing Secretary Nichelle Milner, a former jockey herself, was with Lacie at VGH when the devastating early consensus was that Jeffery had suffered a broken back, broken shoulder, bruised lung and broken ribs.

In a 2016 interview with the Vancouver Sun, Burningham said: “A couple of years ago I just about killed myself in a riding accident.  I had a collapsed lung, five broken ribs and suffered a severe concussion. Doctors told me I’d never ride again.”

Now Burningham must dig deep to convince himself of what he told the frightened apprentice Jose Asencio in 2017: “Keep your spirits high and never give up”.

Milner has already spoken with several horsemen who want to organize a GoFundMe campaign in support of the Burningham family … Jeffery, Lacie, daughter Larissa and son Ethan.

It is at times like this when the horse racing fraternity pulls together as one. And it is about to happen again. Stand by for more details.