Updated on 09/15/2011 12:52PM

Marquis's top rider killed in fall

Email

Jockey Isiah Sala died in a fall Sunday at Marquis Downs in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. He was 23.

Sala, a native of Jersey City, N.J., was the leading rider in his first meet at Marquis with 53 wins - 12 more than his closest rival.

Sala was on Twilight Deputy in the seventh race on the Heritage Day card, one of the province's richest and most prestigious.

Twilight Deputy was running fifth when eventual winner Kelchinko, ridden by Rick Stevens, passed him on the outside. Twilight Deputy clipped the heels of Kelchinko and fell near the quarter pole, throwing Sala head first to the ground. A third horse, Don Q, ridden by Andrew Scarlett, who was immediately behind, appeared to step on the head of the prone Sala.

Sala was unconscious when paramedics reached him. He was taken to the Royal University Hospital at about 4:30 p.m. and was pronounced dead from his head injuries about six hours later without ever regaining consciousness. Scarlett, who was also thrown in the incident, walked away with bumps and bruises. Neither horse was hurt.

Sala had won the first and the third races on Sunday's card.

Sala rode his first winner on Dec. 7, 1997, at Philadelphia Park aboard Flintrok for trainer Fred Wilhelm. In 1998 he rode on the New Jersey circuit at Monmouth Park, Atlantic City, and Garden State, and at Philadelphia Park. Sala did not ride in either 1999 or 2000 and accepted one mount at Hialeah in April 2001 before heading to Saskatoon.

Horsemen and Marquis officials said that Sala was a hard worker and one of the few jockeys to be seen galloping horses every morning. His best riding day at Marquis Downs was July 22, when he won all three stakes races on the card. In his career, Sala won 66 races from 361 mounts, with purse earnings of $211,449. His brother, Masa, was expected to arrive at in Saskatoon on Monday. Funeral plans are indefinite.

"Isiah was very popular and everyone loved being around him," said Doug King, race manager at Marquis Downs. "It's going to take a while for the racing community to recover from the loss."

Sala is the first jockey to die from a fall in Canada since 1985, when Lynn Estrada was fatally injured in a race at Vancouver's Exhibition Park and died from her injuries a few days later.