Callie Witt, 20, an exercise rider for trainer Joe Sharp, died Friday morning following a training accident on the Keeneland training track. The incident occurred shortly after 8 a.m. when Witt was thrown from a 2-year-old horse.
Alpha Event Medicine, the track's on-site medical team, immediately attended to her life-threatening injuries. Lexington Fire and Emergency arrived at the scene within six minutes and transported Witt to the University of Kentucky Emergency Department, where she was pronounced dead from blunt force injuries.
Keeneland Vice President of Equine Safety Dr. Stuart Brown provided this description of the accident late Friday afternoon: “At approximately 8 a.m., while performing a routine gallop of an unraced 2-year-old filly, the horse shifted her stride causing Callie to be dismounted, landing on the inner synthetic training track material.”
The horse involved in the incident has been evaluated and has demonstrated no signs of unsoundness or injury, reported Dr. Brown.
“We are heartbroken by this tragic loss,” Keeneland President and CEO Shannon Arvin said. “Our hearts and prayers go out to Callie's family, friends and our collective racing community at this difficult time.”
A native of Nebraska, Witt was studying at Bluegrass Community and Technical College and was interviewed in a 2021 TDN feature on her then-participation in the exercise riding portion of the course.
“Since I was a little girl, it's always been my dream to be a jockey,” she said. “My parents' big thing was that I had to have a degree in something to fall back on, so I was really lucky to find this type of program where I can continue my passion for horses, learn how to ride, and still get a degree.”
Added Sharp: “We are devastated by the loss of Callie as she has grown near and dear to our barn. Callie aspired to be a jockey and was about to graduate from the North American Racing Academy. She had been making great progress toward her goals and had a work ethic that was second to none. She was unique … you don't see many in her generation with that level of grit and determination. Our hearts and prayers go out to her family.”
Prominent horseman Carlo Vaccarezza has set up a GoFundMe page for Witt that can be accessed here.
A difficult morning in the racing community 💔 pic.twitter.com/rmivyfgrNB
— Frances J Karon (@francesjkaron) April 29, 2022