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Tributes to jockey, 29, killed after falling from horse in front of horrified spectators during race
4 February 2024, 23:15 | Updated: 5 February 2024, 10:34
A jockey has died following a freak accident during a meet when his horse ran through the wing of a fence.
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Keagan Kirkby, a point-to-point rider and highly valued member of the Paul Nicholls team at Ditcheat, died following a fall at Charing point-to-point on Sunday.
The Injured Jockeys Fund (IJF) said the 25-year-old was riding at the meeting in Kent when his horse ran through the wing of a fence in the final race of the day.
A statement from the IJF read: "It is with deep sadness that we have to report that West Country point-to-point rider, Keagan Kirkby, 25, has died following a fall at Charing point-to-point in Kent today.
"His horse, trained locally, ran out through the wing of a fence on the second circuit of the final race. The on-course medical team attended immediately and despite additional support from a 999 Helicopter Emergency Services crew, he could not be saved.
"Keagan was a respected member of the Paul Nicholls team, who joined in 2019 and who had been awarded employee of the month in December 2021. He was shortlisted for the 2024 Thoroughbred Industry Employee Awards in the Rider/Groom category.
"We kindly ask that everyone respects the privacy of Keagan's family and the team at Paul Nicholls Racing at this tragic time."
Paying tribute on his X (formerly Twitter) account, champion trainer Nicholls said: "Life is so hard sometimes, winners totally insignificant compared to what has happened today.
"Sadly Keagan Kirby, one of our best, hardworking lads, lost his life today riding in a point-to-point. All at team Ditcheat are mortified. Thoughts with all his friends and family."
He added: "He was passionate about his job and his riding and rode Afadil every day. Last thing he said to me on Friday was 'boss Afadil will win tomorrow' (at Musselburgh). How right he was.
"RIP Keag we will all miss you terribly."
Julie Harrington, chief executive of the British Horseracing Authority, said in a statement: "We are devastated to hear the tragic news regarding the fatal injuries sustained by Keagan Kirkby.
"Our thoughts are with his family and friends, and everyone at the yard of Paul Nicholls. The entire racing industry will be in mourning at the loss of someone so young and with such potential.
"The esteem in which he was held is clear from the fact that he was nominated for the Rider/Groom category of the 2024 Thoroughbred Industry Employee Awards, and made it through to the final 10 in his category. The nomination spoke of Keagan's qualities as a thoughtful rider who develops a personal bond with his horses, understands their characters and adapts his riding accordingly, as well as his affable, helpful nature and popularity on the yard.
"We call on everyone to respect the privacy of Keagan's family and the Paul Nicholls yard."