SHELBYVILLE, Ind. (WISH) – For the first time since Tuesday night, racing has resumed at Indiana Grand Casino after a deadly accident.
But while fans were there to cheer on their bets, they were also there to remember Juan Saez.
“Something like this doesn’t every go away. It’s going to be hard for them,” said Dave Stroud of Indianapolis.
A memorial service took place before Thursday’s first race. Every jockey, trainer and member of senior management was there.
“Days like this just drive it home to us how much we depend on each other,” said Jon Schuster, GM of Indiana Grand Racing. “We lost a shining star, a friend, a positive talented young kid. Everybody loved him, you don’t get that a lot at a race track.”
Saez died during a race Tuesday. Authorities are calling it a freak accident.
“We lost a good guy, a good athlete, a young kid. He was 17 years old,” said Francisco Torres, a fellow Jockey who was on the track during the race.
The Indiana Racing Commission says Saez’s horse clipped the heels of the horse in front him. Saez was thrown, caught under a hoof and died of severe head trauma. He’s the first jockey killed on an Indiana race track.
“I believe in my heart that he passed away living his dream,” said Torres. “He will be missed, but never forgotten.”
The track also announced Thursday that it is launching the Leading Apprentice Rider Award in Saez’s name. It will be given out every year to the top apprentice rider at the casino.
“A way we make sure we keep Juan in our hearts and minds every year and we don’t allow ourselves to forget him or let it drift off into something that doesn’t mean anything. This way, all the colony here and the fans and the racing family will be able to remember Juan in an important way,” said Schuster.
The track also launched the Juan Saez Memorial Fund to raise money to fly his body back to Panama.