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Jockey suffers another injury setback after coming back from near-death fall

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A serious race fall in far north Queensland is the latest in a string of injuries for one of the most resilient, and perhaps unluckiest, jockeys in Australia.

Japanese-born Manabu Kai suffered lacerations to his leg and was taken to hospital after the fall earlier this month at Innisfail.

It was by no means his worst injury.

"Jockeys have to be physically tough but also mentally," Kai said.

"It can be painful, but when I recover and get back on a horse I don't remember the pain."

The 35-year-old's career has been a turbulent and life-threatening one.

Losing short-term memory after race fall

It began in 2001 when, at the age of 18, Kai defied his parents' wishes and travelled to Australia to learn how to become a professional jockey.

He started winning country races and moved up the ranks.

After two wins at major metropolitan races in Brisbane, Kai's career was flying, until he suffered a serious brain injury when he fell from horse in 2008.

The young jockey almost died.

He also lost his short-term memory for six weeks. Every day doctors had to tell him he had had a life-threatening accident on the racetrack.

They also told him he would never race again.

"I retired and went home to Japan and had one year of recovery," Kai said.

"Then I studied at university and started working for orthopaedic doctors.

"One day I watched a race and just cried. I missed horse racing that much so I decided to come back."

In the winner's circle after comeback

Kai returned to Australia in 2013 to make what has been described as one of the most unlikely comebacks in racing history.

"Before the accident I was still stepping up in my career," he said.

"When I came back I was in provincial racing in Toowoomba, then I went to the Sunshine Coast.

Jockey Manabu Kai on his horse on the racehorse

"One day an owner rang me and asked me to ride in Cairns. I rode a winner.

"Next week another trainer asked me to come again and I rode a winner nearly every week."

Kai's success in far north Queensland prompted a move to Cairns, where he was to suffer further injury.

He broke his ribs when he fell from a horse in 2014 and it jumped on his back.

"I couldn't breathe," he said.

"I got my licence back and moved to Cairns and broke my clavicle in a race in Townsville in 2016."

'Some of the toughest athletes out there'

Riders' agent Jim Barnes, who manages Kai, said jockeys had to be tough to survive.

"Horse racing is a very different sport; once it's in your blood, it's in your blood," he said.

"They understand the risks. No-one likes to get hurt but they look at injuries as 'get over it and get back in the saddle'.

"They're a tough bunch. It's the sort of thing you wouldn't get into without a love for the animal and the sport."

Mr Barnes has been in the racing industry for more than three decades, and said resilience was a vital trait for any successful jockey.

"Since he's been up around Cairns, Manabu has done well. He's established himself in the senior ranks in far north Queensland," he said.

"He's very tenacious with injuries. He bounces back."

Headshot of jockey Manabu Kai

Horse killed in rare 'bleeding attack'

The latest in Kai's injuries at Innisfail shocked the racing industry.

His horse collapsed and died due to an exercise-induced pulmonary haemorrhage (EIPH), commonly known as a massive bleeding attack, an extremely rare condition.

Queensland Racing Integrity Commission director of veterinary services and animal welfare, Martin Lenz, said fewer than five horses per year on average died from EIPH across the state.

"The really dramatic bleeds, such as this horse had, are rare," he said.

"When it happens it is unfortunate, but if they have a big enough bleed, horses are banned for three months, and if this happens again they are banned for life, and it's with that safety in mind that those rules exist."

Kai said his horse, Second Time Around, was a talented up-and-comer with a bright future, and he described the result as tragic.

"Ever since I was a child I have loved animals. It's very sad," he said.

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