Riders injured during Northfield Park race


NORTHFIELD VILLAGE — The 13th race on the day racing restarted at Northfield Park following the COVID-19 shutdown proved unlucky for several drivers involved in a May 26 accident.

Fire Chief Jason Buss said Friday that he is uncertain what caused the accident, but at about 11 p.m., one rider had an issue that caused him to go down to the ground, resulting in a pileup of several drivers.

“Kind of like a domino effect,” said Buss.

Buss said two of the men were taken to Hillcrest Hospital in Mayfield Heights.

“Both were considered trauma patients,” said Buss. However, the race track has since informed him that the men are “doing OK.”

Buss said a third man may have suffered a concussion, but he declined transport to a hospital.

Dave Bianconi, Northfield Park’s director of racing operations, declined to comment on injuries to any of the men Monday, other than to say they were all “non life-threatening.” He said he does not know when the two hospitalized men may return to racing, but the driver who may have suffered a concussion is expected back soon.

Calls made to the Ohio State Racing Commission seeking additional information and comment were not returned before press time.

According to the race track’s website, live racing resumed there May 26, though without spectators.

Renee Mancino, executive director of the Ohio Harness Horsemen’s Association, posted on the OHHA’s Facebook page the morning after the accident that apparently one driver’s horse caught a shoe or leg harness or had some other equipment failure and went down, causing three trailing horses and their drivers to also go down. She said one hospitalized driver suffered nine broken ribs, a punctured lung and damaged vertebra and the other a broken jaw. A third “walked off,” but was later encouraged to go to a hospital, wrote Mancino, while the fourth was apparently uninjured and won the following race.

“All drivers involved are stable and alert or walked off,” wrote Mancino.

Amy Hollar, also on the OHHA’s Facebook page on May 27, posted that “all horses are OK from last nights [sic] accident.”

The May 26 incident followed a similar one at Northfield Park involving five horses that sent two drivers to a hospital on Feb. 15, according to the Spring 2020 issue of The Buckeye Harness Horseman, the OHHA’s official publication. One of the drivers was “sidelined for a week” and the other was back to racing the following day, The Buckeye Harness Horseman reported, while the other three drivers declined treatment and, “All the horses involved in the crash were able to walk off the track.”

Bianconi said that due to the shutdown, there were not that many races between the two incidents.

“We might only have three or four [injuries] a year where we have to call an ambulance or someone gets transported,” he said. “To have two within not that many cards of racing is pretty rare.”

In her May 27 post, Mancino said such mishaps are rare statewide.

“We host over 56,000 races a year here in Ohio and Thank God I cannot remember a year here where we have had more than 1 accident (if that) like this a year,” she wrote. “It is less dangerous than you getting into your car and driving. Everyone does all they can for safety. And the equipment has been modified to aid that as well. No one wants to see even one accident, but there is a risk in any one race that may be the case.”

Reporter Jeff Saunders can be reached at jsaunders@recordpub.com or @JeffSaunders_RP.