Harness Racing Community Mourns
It had started as a fun evening at the races followed by festivities, but the joy and excitement turned into tragedy in the early hours of Monday morning, 11 April 2011, when an accident took place on the backstretch of Balmoral Park, located outside of Crete. Michelle Eustis and a friend had decided to go bareback riding, and when her fiancé began to worry, he decided to go find then. Tragically, he did not see the horse and the women until it was too late, and he sideswiped the horse with his truck.
Michelle Eustis was twenty five and a mother of one, who was a well liked trainer in the harness racing industry. Her father, also a trainer, was excitingly watching his daughter grow up and blossom into a trainer before his eyes, and the unfortunate accident has rocked the entire harness racing community. The fact that she has left behind a daughter has tugged at the hearts of many within the industry, especially the drivers, and an educational fund has been set up in memory of Michelle Eustis for her daughter. Harness racing driver, Rod Allums Jr. approached many of his fellow racing drivers at both Maywood Park and Balmoral Park to donate a portion of their earnings for the week to the fund. Ryan Bellamy, Josh Sutton and Jason Dillander have already agreed to assist in this worthy cause, and it is expected that more drivers will be signing up to support the fund and pay tribute to Michelle Eustis.
The friend, Heather France, who had been with Eustis at the time, suffered a broken leg and arm, and is recovering in hospital; while the horse they were riding, belonging to Eustis’ father and had not been raced in quite a while, suffered only minor bruises and cuts. Angus Lake, Eustis’ fiance, is now facing a charge of driving under the influence, adding to the tragedy and lives that have been forever changed by the accident. Lake is also a trainer and horse owner at Balmoral Park. The entire harness racing community is rallying around the Eustis family and trying to assist in any means possible to lighten the burden of Eustis’ loved ones, demonstrating that harness racing is more than just a sport – it is a way of life and a close-knit family.