VICTORIAN racing officials are celebrating the safest jumps season in more than two decades.
Racing Victoria operations and jumps manager Paul Bloodworth was yesterday upbeat about the future of the sport, which was under threat less than 12 months ago.
Just one horse — New Zealand import Jotilla — died and 20 fell during the 2012 season, which wrapped up at Coleraine at the weekend.
The figures compare favourably with 2010-11, when there were four deaths and 26 falls.
Bloodworth said officials did not have figures from before 1990 “but I would think they might struggle to beat the figures from this season”.
“The breakdown shows we had more jumps races this season compared to last year,” he said.
“The number of falls in hurdle races reduced from 14 to eight this season.
“While the falls in steeplechase races stayed the same as last year, but we had three more steeplechase races.”
The percentage of falls to starters dropped from 5.6 per cent last season to 3.8 per cent this season, another indication a greater emphasis on safety was working.
“I think all the safety initiatives which have been put in place have come to fruition,” Bloodworth said.
“I think the jockeys are riding better and the horses are better schooled and educated.
“Full credit must be given to the Australian Jumps Racing Association, jumps jockeys and trainers.
“We’ve all worked closely to ensure the sport grows and, with the help of extra prizemoney from the state government, the sport has had a positive turnaround.”
Veteran Cranbourne trainer Eric Musgrove declared the 2012 season the most successful of his three decades training jumps horses.
Musgrove, who prepared $9 chance End of Time to win the Great Western Steeplechase at Coleraine on Sunday, described the season as “wonderful”.
“It’s the first year I can remember that we’ve only had one fatality,” he said.
“I think there are a few reasons why we’ve had such a great season. There has been better education for jumps jockeys and trainers and the fences have been upgraded.”
Musgrove lauded the work of the AJRA and Racing Minister Denis Napthine, while Napthine praised British horseman Yogi Breisner.
Breisner was at Werribee and Warrnambool this year running workshops for trainers and jockeys.
Napthine said jumps racing had a bright future.
“There have been numerous top-quality first-season jumpers. I’m sure they will all develop into better jumpers next year,” he said.