Jockey critically injured in fall at track

UNION – Horse races over the weekend at a training facility in Union ended with one jockey being flown to a hospital in critical condition.

Jose Montoya was competing in the final race Sunday at Poker de Ases Ranch and Training Center, 18718 W. Union Road, when he fell from his horse, struck a guardrail and was trampled, reports said.

Montoya was flown to Rockford Memorial Hospital about 7:30 p.m. with a fractured arm and internal injuries, according to the Marengo Fire Protection District. He remained at the hospital Monday in critical condition. The two-horse, 300-yard sprint was the last of five exhibition races on the property Sunday. The training facility hosts four events a year that are open to the public.

“We’ve never had anything like this happen before,” property owner Luis Mendez Jr. said. “Everyone here is fully aware whenever you partake in equine activities there is always that risk of injury. [Montoya] appeared to tip to the side, fall off the horse, and hit the divider.”

Each event requires permits through McHenry County. Races are scheduled again for July 1.

Horse owners use the training center weekly to prepare for races at other facilities, Mendez said. The owners then use their own jockeys for the Sunday “tune-ups.”

“We knew him from riding horses here from time to time,” Mendez said of Montoya. “He was riding for one of the owners who trains at our facility. It’s an unfortunate accident.”

Spectators are charged admission watch the races, and are not permitted to gamble. Deputies from the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office are on site for security.

“This appeared to be an accident,” sheriff’s Lt. John Miller said. “There was nothing suspicious or anything like that.”

The previous owners held three races in 2006 and three in 2007 that neighbors then argued filled the quiet rural area with litter, loud music, drinking and trespassers.

McHenry County officials in 2007 denied a fourth temporary-use permit because it was determined the events had become a business enterprise, said Dennis Sandquist, county director of planning and development.

The Zoning Board of Appeals and County Board later voted against a conditional-use permit to allow up to two races a month from March to November, and a county ordinance was updated to allow six permits a year, but no more than two in a three-month period, Sandquist said.

Mendez began hosting exhibition races in June 2010.

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