'We are devastated': Horse racing rocked by jockey's tragic death

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Miguel Mena, pictured here riding Uncaptured in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes in 2013.
Miguel Mena riding Uncaptured in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes in 2013. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

On the same day the Melbourne Cup was run and won, the horse racing world was rocked by the tragic death of champion jockey Miguel Mena.

Churchill Downs announced the tragic news on Tuesday, revealing the 34-year-old was killed in a pedestrian accident.

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Mena won nearly 2100 thoroughbred races in North America and earned $72.4 million in prize money throughout his career.

Churchill Downs said Mena was killed on Sunday night on westbound Interstate 64 near Jeffersontown, a community in the east the Louisville area.

Police Chief Rick Sanders told The Associated Press that Mena got out of a rideshare vehicle, crossed the eastbound lanes of the highway, climbed over a retaining wall and was struck by a vehicle traveling in the westbound lanes.

The 34-year-old died at the scene.

Sanders said the driver was interviewed but not charged and the investigation is pending.

Mena’s 451 wins at Churchill Downs rank 15th all-time. He won 16 stakes races at the historic track including two in the Stephen Foster Stakes, most recently last year aboard Tom’s d’Etat. 

His career victory total includes 136 stakes wins with 37 graded-race triumphs.

Mena’s final ride was on Saturday at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky. He would have turned 35 on Saturday.

Churchill Downs said Mena began riding regularly there in fall 2006. He finished among the top five riders in eight meets with spring runner-up finishes in 2008 and 2019. 

He was often seen riding his bike around Churchill Downs’ stables in the morning for fitness.

Miguel Mena, pictured here aboard Bayern at the 2014 Preakness Stakes.
Miguel Mena aboard Bayern at the 2014 Preakness Stakes. (Photo by Bill Frakes /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)

Horse racing world in shock over Miguel Mena's death

Churchill Downs President Mike Anderson called news of Mena’s death “absolutely shocking, terrible and heartbreaking”. 

Anderson expressed condolences to the rider’s wife April and daughters Naelah and Montserrat, along with fellow jockeys and friends.

“Our team is devastated to learn of Miguel’s passing," Anderson said.

"He was such a courageous rider who fought to overcome several challenges and adversity. We’ll miss his bright smile.”

Mena sustained eight severely fractured bones in his ankle and heel in a March 2018 fall from a mount at Fair Grounds. 

He returned to the saddle that September and raced the next month at Keeneland, a determined comeback that earned the Randy Romero Pure Courage Award for overcoming adversity in February 2020.

The Peruvian native had won 49 of 516 mounts this year and earned $2,867,960. 

“We lost a really good rider last night," Breeders’ Cup CEO Joe Harper said before the world championships draw began at Del Mar.

"He was a great guy and a great mentor to a lot of riders."

Tributes have also been flooding in for Mena on social media.

with Associated Press

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