By Julieanne Horsman
Neil Paine knows all too well the risks that come with horse racing. As a professional jockey for 34 years, he’s lost count of the number of broken bones suffered in multiple falls – the worst ended his career in 2014. Incredibly, he considers himself lucky.
“I was lucky nothing too serious ever happened to me,” he said. “Bones heal but head and spinal injuries don’t always come right and they often have life-altering consequences.”
Now retired from race riding, Paine works as the stable foreman for Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott.
With more than 250 horses in their care, Waterhouse and Bott can’t be at every race so Paine is there to saddle up the horses, meet the owners and make sure the day runs smoothly.
“I love my job and couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else,” he said.
But Paine’s real passion is helping jockeys on the same path he trod for more than three decades. He’s a Welfare Officer of the NSW Jockeys’ Association and served as President from 1988 to 1992. This Saturday he’ll be at Royal Randwick supporting Jockey Celebration Day – a national initiative which honours fallen jockeys and raises funds to support jockeys and their families if they’re affected by accidents or injuries.
There will be a minute silence at every race meeting across Australia and volunteers with be rattling the tin.
“Please donate if you can, even a dollar from everyone at the races would add up to thousands,” Paine said.
“We’ve witnessed some catastrophic accidents this year and funds are vital to enable us to step in and help the moment it’s needed.
“On a more positive note, it’s incredible to see how far the jockey support services have come since the 80s.”
In a month’s time, Paine will also be supporting the National Jockeys Trust Race Day Luncheon in the ballroom at Royal Randwick.
He and TAB’s funny man Glenn Munsie will be the MCs for the event, which includes a three-course meal, premium beverage package, silent auction and entertainment.
“It’s always a fantastic day and you don’t have to be a mad racing fan to really enjoy yourself,” Paine said.
“There’s a good chance Winx will be running that day too.”
Paine, who is instantly recognizable for his brightly coloured suits, already has his outfit planned for the day.
“It’ll be something special with a touch of orange which is the colour of the National Jockeys Trust,” he said.
“Horse racing gave me so much and I’m so glad I’m able to give something back.”