It wasn’t easy for some jockeys to get back on the track again after fellow rider Eduardo Gutierrez Sosa died from injuries sustained in a fall Wednesday night.
“There are two ways I can look at it,” said fellow jockey Vladimir Jensen. “I can grieve about it, which is alright. We all grieve when something tragic happens.
“Or the second thing, you can think, ‘what does he love doing best?’ He would want us to do the same thing, go out there and have fun because he is going to be up there looking down at us and be going, ‘I don’t want you guys to back down. I would do the same thing for you.’”
“It was emotional, but you have to keep your mind clear, your mind focused,” Jensen added. “We had a friend pass away, it’s hard. It’s not going to be the same without him around us.”
Doug Smith, Chairman of the Crooked River Roundup Horse Races, believes this was the first fatal horse racing incident in Oregon in more than 40 years.
He described the tension in the air when horses got back on the track the following night.
“I think you could feel a little knot in your stomach from the night before,” he said. “…But as the night went on, I think the knot got a little looser and we all started maybe having a little fun.”
A few jockeys close to Gutierrez Sosa decided not to race again after the incident.
“When you travel with someone for such a long time, it’s probably like losing a brother more than like losing someone you work with,” Smith added.
Brother, father, husband, mentor.
“He would smile, always had a positive attitude in this business, always smile when he is on a horse, in the jock’s room,” Jensen said. “Great guy, his family is amazing.
“He was part of our family. I mean, us horsemen are always a big family. We come here to have a good time, to compete and he was a part of it.”
More than $16,500 was donoted to the Gutierrez Sosa family in-person at the races, and a GoFundMe page has so far raised another $13,000.
“That was amazing. It made everyone’s hearts kind of melt,” Jensen said.
“That absolutely shows you what a wonderful community we live in, not just Prineville, but the entire Central Oregon area has been a part of this, and the horseman has contributed to it,” Smith said. “It shows we are one big family.”
The races and donations will continue through Saturday night.