Trainer who had a long relationship with father-of-four jockey who died in horror race fall reveals their heartbreaking final conversation: ‘It makes you hate racing’
- Dean Holland passed away on Monday in country Victoria
- Leaves wife and four children under the age of five
- Trainer Jon O’Connor had known him since childhood
Horse trainer Jon O’Connor has revealed he is so devastated by the tragic death of his great friend Dean Holland in a racing fall that the loss makes him “almost want to walk away from racing.”
Holland, 34, died Monday in a sickening incident in the country of Victoria, leaving behind his wife and four children under the age of five.
He was riding Tony McEvoy gelding Headingley in the first race at Donald, 280km north west of Melbourne, when he was involved in a fall described by onlookers as ‘sickening’.
Holland was thrown to the turf as the three-year-old gelding moved sharply to the inside rail before falling as the field turned home at the top of the straight.
Dean Holland (pictured after winning the Group 1 Newmarket Handicap on March 11 at Flemington) died in a sickening race fall in country Victoria on Monday
South Australian trainer Jon O’Connor (pictured, centre) has known the Netherlands since joining his team as a 15-year-old apprentice and even rode with the jockey’s father
He was treated by medical staff en route before being airlifted to a hospital in Melbourne in critical condition. Victoria Police confirmed his death shortly after 4pm.
O’Connor first met Holland when the hoop came to him as an apprentice at just 15 years old and the pair remained in touch.
“They become like family, your students, when they’re with you that long,” O’Connor said Racing net.
“His dad and I rode together… We all know the risks, but the impact when you carry that history with you… it’s just that feeling of disbelief.
“I hate to say it, but sometimes you hate racing.
“For all the sacrifices people make, and he made the ultimate sacrifice, it almost makes you want to walk away from racing.”
The pair last met on Saturday before the City of Adelaide Handicap and O’Connor revealed he had asked the rider about his huge workload.
The 34-year-old is survived by his wife Lucy and their four young children (two of whom are pictured with the couple)
Holland (pictured after a race win at Flemington in 2020) became ‘like family’ to O’Connor and the pair kept in touch
“I had a conversation with Deano before the race…I mentioned how many meetings he was running and his workload, and he said, “I have ambitions to ride 100 winners for the first time this season. I just want to get to 100 and then I’ll have some rest and be a little more selective “instead of riding just about every day like he was,” O’Connor recalled.
“That was the last conversation we really had and it’s just really hard to keep your wits about you.”
The veteran jockey rode 1,080 winners – earning $32.4 million in prize money for connections – during a stellar career that included Group 1 wins in the Newmarket Handicap in March and Australasian Oaks in Adelaide, where he cut his teeth as a rider.
Ironically, that Newmarket win over In Secret only came because superstar rider Jamie Kah was in hospital (where she is staying) with a very serious head injury – and said at the time that he didn’t want to ‘yahoo’ about the win because she had have to drive.
The meeting was quickly abandoned on Monday, with the racing world completely shocked and devastated by the tragic death.
A younger Netherlands salutes the crowd after Flemington won in 2009. He earned over $32 million in prize money during his stellar career
Trainer Peter Moody himself wrote a tribute: ‘Vale Dean Holland. Thoughts and prayers for Lucy and his beautiful young family. Way too soon, RIP young man.’
Expert Samuel Hyland also spoke of his grief that the popular jockey had passed away.
“What sad news to hear that Dean Holland has passed away. Deano was a fantastic jockey, hard worker and such a great guy. My condolences to his lovely family, it’s just so sad,” he said.
One gambler called it the “most sickening crash I’ve seen”, while another wrote it was “so sad to see this happen far too often” – after a spate of very serious race crashes that also saw superstar drivers Jamie Kah and Craig Williams were involved as top hoops Ethan Brown and Teo Nugent in recent months.