Canberra jockey Samara Johnson killed in car crash, trainer Garry Kirkup seriously injured

4 December 2017 1:15 AM

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Canberra track work rider and picnic jockey Samara Johnson has died in a car crash, while her partner and Thoroughbred Park trainer Garry Kirkup was seriously injured.

New South Wales Police confirmed the the 25-year-old was killed in the single-vehicle crash on Gundagai Road at Eurongilly, 41km west of Gundagai, just before 2.30pm Sunday.

It is understood the pair was returning from visiting Ms Johnson's family in Coolamon when the car left the road and hit a tree head-on, with Mr Kirkup at the wheel.

Mr Kirkup, 54, was airlifted to Canberra Hospital with severe abdominal injuries, before undergoing emergency surgery and remains in a critical condition.

The accident comes nine months after Canberra track work rider Riharna Thomson, who was close friends with Ms Johnson, died working at Thoroughbred Park.

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Family and colleagues were able to visit Mr Kirkup in hospital on Sunday night and Canberra Racing boss Peter Stubbs said the industry was doing it tough after a horror 2017.

"It's been a tragic year for the club, Riharna and Samara were close friends and have mutual friends who still work in the industry, we're all devastated, it's been a really tough year," Mr Stubbs said.

"Samara was licensed as an approved rider who rode at picnic races and was highly successful at the picnics in this region and rode track work at Thoroughbred Park six days a week.

"She rode for Garry and freelanced for a number of different trainers on course, we're providing counselling support through our racing chaplain Bob Prior, while the other trainers have rallied to look after Garry's horses, he has about a dozen in his stables."

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Ms Johnson was a rising jockey at the picnics and had ridden 26 winners in the past two years, which included the Tomingley Cup in April when she rode eight-year-old mare As Easy As to a seventh win in 10 starts.

Ms Johnson's final ride was in a trial at Canberra last Friday aboard Mr Kirkup's On the Catwalk and her most recent winner was on Liabilityadjuster at the Young Cup on October 7.

Mr Kirkup won the past two Camerena Sprints at Canberra's biggest race event of the year, the Black Opal Stakes day, with champion eight-year-old Highly Geared.

The mare raced on Oaks Day at Flemington during the Melbourne Spring Carnival last month and has made Mr Kirkup more than $300,000 since he bought her as an untrained four-year-old for just $12,000.

"Garry has had two stints training in Canberra, he first trained in the '90s for media personality Mike Willesee and then came here for a decade, before having a stint on the Gold Coast and then returning to Canberra four years ago," Mr Stubbs said.

"He's certainly a well-known trainer, not only in Canberra but around the Riverina area and Wagga and Cootamundra, we're all hoping for a speedy recovery for Garry."

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