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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

California Steward Reduction Proposal Voted Down

The CHRB proposal was an effort to save money, but we felt that it was a threat to the safety and integrity of the game.  The standard of three stewards on duty is the standard throughout the industry, not only in the United States, but around the world.  After hearing testimony from Guild Attorney Barry Broad, Western Coast Guild Representative Darrell Haire, and retired Jockey Ron Warren, the CHRB voted unanimously to maintain the three steward standard.
Monday, July 27, 2009

Nakatani passes Pincay, isn't finished.

But he's hungry for more.

Nakatani, a Covina native, now is setting his sights on Chris McCarron's record 134 stakes victories at the seaside track.

"I'm 38 years old," Nakatani said after guiding 14-1 long shot Global Hunter to a one-length victory over Awesome Gem in the $350,000 Grade I Eddie Read Stakes. "I'm not that old, so I feel like I'm in my prime. I know what I'm doing on the horse's back, and hopefully I can get the horsemen on my side and give me the opportunity to break that record of McCarron's. I think I can do it."

Nakatani tied Pincay with a win in the CTBA Stakes for 2-year-old fillies Friday, and it took him less than 24 hours to record No. 96 and give trainer A.C. Avila the first Grade 1 win of his career since coming to the U.S. from Brazil in 1973.

Now that he's healthy and fixed an admitted attitude problem, Nakatani hopes he can return to winning jockey titles and winning the top Southland stakes races on a regular basis.

While he was sitting atop Global Hunter in the winner's circle, track announcer Trevor Denman informed the on-track crowd of 20,379 it was Nakatani's third win of the afternoon, something that hasn't happened with great frequency since his last Del Mar riding title in 2004.

"When you hear Trevor say something like that, it gives you tingles because I've had a few rough years, I've been hurt a few times and now I'm healthy again," he said. "My wife Lisa is obviously helping put me back together.

"It feels great to obviously get in front of Laffit, but I'm not done yet. Hopefully, I can get the horsemen behind me, the owners and trainers, and that will put me on top."

A few more Global Hunters wouldn't hurt.

The 6-year-old Argentine bred and the son of Jade Hunter sat second down the backside behind even-money favorite Monterey Jazz after the pacesetting Thorn Song bolted around the clubhouse turn on jockey Mike Smith and took himself out of the race.

Nakatani moved on the leader turning for home, pulled even at the top of the stretch and drew clear while holding off late charges by Awesome Gem and Whatsthescript.

"I was trying to wait a little longer and sit behind Monterey Jazz before I swung out and got him to kick," he said. "But I just didn't want to stop his momentum, so I said, `Let's go and stick it to 'em, and if they get us, they get us.'

"But the way he was moving and the way he was traveling, I didn't think they could get us."

Global Hunter, winning for the seventh time in 25 starts, came into the race off an eighth-place showing in the Hollywood Gold Cup on July 11. But that race was on Hollywood Park's synthetic Cushion Track, and Global Hunter is winless in five starts on synthetics.

Monterey Jazz, who came in off a 3<MD+,%30,%55,%70>1/<MD-,%0,%55,%70>4-length victory in the Grade 2 American Handicap at Hollywood Park on July 4, was fifth after leading much of the way.

"That other horse (Thorn Song) ducked so fast, I had to grab my horse," jockey Tyler Baze said. "We were cruising; he was as cool as a cucumber. I'm sitting in the garden (spot) and I'm loving it.

"Then Mike's horse does his thing, and as soon as I have to grab mine, he's gone. He just takes off and runs himself out."

Said Smith, "Man, did he duck. He just threw his head up and went. I knew he wasn't hurt; he just saw something and he ducked. There's a brick pillar over near there with yellow tape on it, and maybe that was it. I did well to stay on."
Art Wilson/San Gabriel Tribune
Monday, July 27, 2009


 The New York Racing Association, Inc.’s current leading rider, Ramon Dominguez, will put three straight riding titles on the line in Saratoga this summer.  After moving his tack to New York from the Mid-Atlantic circuit earlier this year, Dominguez won both the inner track meet and the spring meet at Aqueduct Racetrack.  Dominguez then broke the modern-day record for wins during the Belmont Park spring/summer reaching 93 victories on Friday, July 24, besting the record of 92 set by Hall of Fame rider Angel Cordero, Jr. in 1982. 

 Saratoga is the most challenging meet there is,” Dominguez said.  “I don’t want to make any predictions, I’m just hoping to carry over the momentum that I had at Belmont Park.”

 At Belmont this spring, Dominguez has been in fine company and the talented colony looks to remain mostly intact when racing moves North next week.  Alan Garcia, who captured last year’s Saratoga riding title with 39 wins will return to defend his title, as will the rest of the top ten jockeys from the 2008 Saratoga season: Javier Castellano, Eibar Coa, Kent Desormeaux, Julien Leparoux, Rajiv Maragh, Hall of Famer Edgar Prado, Cornelio Velasquez and John Velazquez, along with many other NYRA regulars. 

 Expected to join this group are some familiar faces from Saratoga seasons past, including Kentucky Derby and Preakness winning jockey Calvin Borel, who was second in the standings at the Churchill Downs meet that concluded July 5 with 61 victories, one behind Churchill title-winner Julien Leparoux, who will also make the pilgrimage North.  Robby Albarado and Shaun Bridgmohan, fourth and fifth in the Churchill rankings respectively, are also expected.  Bridgmohan, injured in a training accident at Churchill Downs on July 6, has been getting on horses in the mornings and anticipates a return to regular riding early in the Saratoga meet, according to his agent, Doc Danner.

 One familiar face from downstate racing, apprentice Amanda Casey, a native of South Glens Falls, N.Y., will likely miss most of the Saratoga meet due to a bruised rotator cuff and possibly a deep bone bruise, according to her agent, Robert Whitlock.  After looking at an MRI, Whitlock said Casey’s doctor recommended that she undergo physical rehabilitation for a month before riding again. Casey hopes to ride during the final week of the meet.

 For the first time this year, The New York Racing Association, Inc. will offer a Jockey Autograph Book, sponsored by Price Chopper, in which fans can collect the signatures of their favorite riders. The book features the ten leading NYRA jockeys by number of wins in 2008, as well as Sam the Bugler, and a blank page for additional autographs.

 Autograph book mini-giveaways are planned for four Mondays in August (Aug. 3, 10, 17 and 31) from 11 a.m.– 4 p.m.  On these dates, Auggie, the NYRA mascot, will roam Saratoga Race Course handing the books to young fans.  Autograph books are also expected to be available for purchase in the NYRA store, with the proceeds going to benefit the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund.

 A complete list of jockeys expected to ride in Saratoga is below.

Robby Albarado
Norberto Arroyo, Jr
Jose Bermudez
Calvin Borel
Shaun Bridgmohan
Jesus Castanon
Javier Castellano
Eddie Castro
Jorge Chavez
Eibar Coa
Kent Desormeaux
Ramon Dominguez
Jose Espinoza
Raymundo Fuentes
Alan Garcia
Filiberto Leon
Julien Leparoux
Jose Lezcano
Mike Luzzi
Rajiv Maragh
Richard Migliore
Miguel Mena
Sebastian Morales
Edgar Prado
Gary Richards
Jose Rivera
Rudy Rodriguez
Jean-Luc Samyn
Jamie Theriot
Cornelio Velasquez
John Velazquez
Monday, July 27, 2009


 Dominguez rode three winners on Closing Day as he set a modern-day record for victories with 98 winners for the meet, having already broken Hall of Famer Angel Cordero Jr.’s mark of 92 set during the 1982 Belmont Park meet. Finishing second among riders was Rajiv Maragh, with 71 winners.

 Contessa, who has been the leading trainer in New York for the past three years, saddled 25 winners from 208 starts, while Clement finished up with 23 winners from 82 starts.

 Dominguez and Contessa also were the leading jockey and trainer at Aqueduct Racetrack’s inner track meet and the spring meet.

 Carl Lizza was the leading owner for the Belmont spring meet for the second time with 15 winners, two more than runner-up Steve Sigler and Winning Move Stable. Lizza’s Flying Zee Stable was the leading owner at Belmont in 2006 as well.

Thoroughbred racing moves upstate to Saratoga Race Course for 36 days beginning Wednesday, July 29, and running through Labor Day, Monday, Aug. 7, with the centerpiece of the 141st meet the Grade 1, $1 million Shadwell Travers on Aug. 29. Belmont Park will re-open for the Fall Championship Meet on Friday, Sept. 11.
Monday, July 27, 2009


 Hall of Famer Angel Cordero, Jr., held the mark for most victories since records were first kept, bringing home 92 winners during the 1982 Belmont Park spring/summer meet.  Fellow Hall of Famers Jose Santos and Mike Smith each had 86 winners for the 1986 and 1991 spring/summer meets, respectively.

 “It’s very, very exciting,” said Dominguez. “It didn’t even cross my mind coming into the meet, and it’s just a reflection of the type of opportunities that have been given to me. This is just a result of that support.”

 Dominguez had moved into a tie with Cordero on Thursday by winning the first race aboard Saul J. Kupferberg’s Inter Galactic ($4.50) and then taking the fourth race with Zayat Stables’ Mine Or Who’s ($7), his 92nd winner.

 Dominguez, who moved his tack to New York from the Mid-Atlantic circuit earlier this year, had 21 winners through the first 19 days of racing beginning April 29, then moved into the lead for good on May 25, when he had two winners to break out of a deadlock with Rajiv Maragh. For 32 of the next 33 days, he rode at least one winner, including four winners on July 11.

 Included among his victories were the Grade 2 Shuvee Handicap and the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps aboard Seattle Smooth, the Grade 2 True North Handicap with Fabulous Strike, the Cupecoy’s Joy division of the New York Stallion Series on Mother Russia, the Mike Lee with Legal Consent, the Grade 2 First Flight Handicap with Porte Bonheur, the Grade 1 Prioress with Cat Moves, and the Grade 1 Man o’ War aboard Gio Ponti.

 Dominguez, 32, is currently The New York Racing Association, Inc.’s leading rider, having won the inner track meet and the spring meet at Aqueduct Racetrack earlier this year as well. Dominguez has 233 winners from 848 mounts in New York, with more than $8 million in purses and a win percentage of 27.7%. Nationally, he ranks second in wins, behind Russell Baze.

 A native of Venezuela, Dominguez came to the United States in 1995 and rode his first winner in March of 1996. Beginning in 2007, he divided his time between New York and Delaware Park, where he won five riding titles in 11 years, before moving to New York for good this spring with his wife, Sharon, and two children, Alexander and Matthew.  NYRA COMMUNICATIONS DEPARTMENT



Friday, July 24, 2009

Rene Douglas: Two months later

Two months ago, he walked through such sunlight to the jockeys' room at Arlington Park, a full day of riding ahead. Hours later he was crushed beneath his mount, a victim of the most tragic accident in the track's 82-year history. Now, in Room 718 at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, he is facing the greatest challenge of his life.

It is July 18, nearly two months since a brutal fall left the jockey with no feeling in his lower extremities. Douglas sits by the window, exhaustion etched deep into his face. Physical progress this morning was delayed by the searing pain that often plagues him; he skipped therapy because they started early and at that time he could barely handle the thought of getting out of bed. But in the past few hours, he has made significant mental and emotional strides. Filming a statement for an upcoming golf tournament and dinner to be held in his honor, he has made himself available to select members of the media for the first time since his fall.

This hasn't been easy. Crews from Horse Racing Television, in from California to catch his statement on tape and collect footage for an upcoming short, have just departed. Now it's on to the next interview. Douglas takes a deep breath. It has been a long day, half good and half bad -- like most of the weeks and months he has spent in recovery thus far. It's tough, hard for him to explain.

He couldn't talk because of the breathing tube, but he just looked at me, and a tear rolled down his face, and I lost it. I just lost it.

-- Natalia Douglas, Rene's wife

His ongoing treatment is delayed by fluid buildup in his lungs and a few setbacks: bouts with pneumonia, returns to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, breaks in therapy. Originally, doctors thought he'd be in rehab for two months, but because of the trips back and forth from the hospital, his progress has been slowed.

"Sometimes I still get dizzy," he said. "A lot of times I'm in a lot of pain. But the therapy is making me stronger; I've been coming around in the past two weeks."

He's slowly trying to get rid of that pain, which is difficult because he's also trying to wean himself from his medication. All things considered, though, he's doing amazingly well. When he does make it to therapy, he puts forth extraordinary effort. And as his wife, Natalia, said: "You can't ask for any more than he can give."

What Rene Douglas has already given to horse racing, ultimately, is 42 years -- his entire life. Born into a Panamanian racing family, he grew up around the track and attended his country's jockey school. He came to the United States at 16, riding his way to victory over tracks across the country. En route to 3,588 wins, he earned three leading rider titles each at Florida's Calder Race Course and Hialeah Park, one at Hollywood Park in California, and seven -- including a record four consecutive -- at Arlington Park near Chicago.

He was bringing home horses such as 1996 Belmont Stakes winner Editor's Note and 2006 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Dreaming of Anna. He had everything in his hand, winning all those stakes, climbing to the top. If I fall, I fall, he thought -- when he thought about it at all. I've had a lot of spills.

"You never think this can happen to you," Natalia said. "You think, I'm doing so well, this cannot happen to me!"

But it did.

* * *

People ask Natalia if she saw the fall. The irony of that question makes her laugh, because she never watched live races. Even at the track, she'd wait until the field crossed the finish line. If all the riders -- not just her husband, but everybody -- galloped back to unsaddle near the winner's circle, then and only then would she turn to see the replay. Because then she knew that they'd come home safe, that it was OK to look.

"Do you think I'm going to watch it now, knowing what happened in the race?" she said. "I don't think so. It's just not going to happen, ever."

Footage of the May 23 disaster demonstrates what neither of them wants to see. Douglas' mount, jostled in the final yards of the Arlington Matron, throws her head, loses her footing and jackknifes through the air. There is a split second of suspense as the jockey launches skyward, propelled by his flailing mount. Then he hits the ground, 1,200 pounds of unconscious thoroughbred crashing down on top of him.

* * *

Doreen Razo made the call. She's a jockey's wife, knows what it's like to live with the fear, six or eight daily chances that her husband Eddie Razo may not come walking back to her again. The fall had been bad, she told Natalia Douglas. Bad. It seemed like such a small word, so inadequate, but both women knew what it meant.

Eddie, sitting out the Matron back in the jockeys' room, was preparing to ride his biggest race of the day -- the $150,000 Arlington Classic -- aboard a horse he hadn't raced since November. He had been working the colt, 3-year-old Turf contender Giant Oak, over Arlington's artificial surface. He loved his chances. Douglas, an avid horseman, did too.

A relationship between the two jockeys began at the 1989 Breeders' Cup at Gulfstream Park, when Razo was tackling the Sprint aboard Black Tie Affair. They developed an instant bond. It was always the same, no matter where they rode or how much time elapsed before they saw each other again. They felt like brothers.

"I always admired the way he rode," Razo said. "I would think, Rene, I wish I could be like you. I never told him, but he inspired me, he helped my career. For two or three years in Chicago, I finished second to him in the standings. Sometimes you get mad because a guy is beating you all the time, but with him I didn't mind. He always told trainers, 'Hey, why don't you put Eusabio on your horses?' I couldn't tell people to use him because they already were using him, but I would tell the young riders, 'You want to be good, you look at Rene.'"

A few days before the Arlington Classic, Douglas had given Razo a pep talk -- "You know, man, that's a really good horse, you could win with that horse!" -- and now Razo was thinking about strategy, getting in the zone. He wasn't really paying attention as the horses hurtled homeward in the Matron, just keeping an eye on the television monitor as most riders did between races. Then came the accident. He went numb.

"I've seen a lot of guys go down and get hurt bad," Razo said. "And I'm thinking, What do I do? Do I run out to see him? Do I wait for my race to come? I gotta do my job. I wanna help my friend."

He went out and rode in the Classic, which he won. But the postrace celebration was a blur, the taste of victory soured by his concern for Douglas. As soon as he could, Razo fled the winner's circle. Bits and pieces of information kept coming back to him, the severity of the situation masked by uncertainty.

"They kept saying he was hurt 'bad,' and I'm thinking, 'Bad' is a broken wrist, a broken shoulder, a broken leg," Eddie said. "In some ways, I didn't want to know. That's just what I wanted to keep on thinking."

* * *

At home in Miami, Natalia Douglas threw two T-shirts and a pair of jeans into a suitcase. She left their sons, 13-year-old Giancarlo and 8-year-old Christian, in care of family. She bought a ticket to Chicago and drove to the airport. The whole time she just kept thinking, Make sure I get there first, to say goodbye or see him one more time.

On the way, she spoke to Dr. Hilton Gordon, who had been at the races that day. Gordon, Douglas' friend and personal physician, had sprinted to the fallen rider's side.

"You get on that ambulance and you do not leave my husband," Natalia said. "I don't want him to feel lonely. I don't want him to die alone."

She touched down in Chicago at 11:00 p.m., just in time to see Rene before he was wheeled into surgery. The damage was far beyond Razo's initial fears -- much more extensive than anyone could have imagined. In addition to several broken ribs and a fractured sternum, there were two fractured vertebrae in the jockey's neck. Two compressed thoracic disks, the T-5 and T-6 vertebrae, were pressing into his spinal cord. He was lucky to be alive.

"He looked at me," Natalia said. "He couldn't talk because of the breathing tube, but he just looked at me, and a tear rolled down his face, and I lost it. I just lost it."

She waited outside the surgery room as a team of specialists cut her husband open from neck to buttocks, inserting screws into his upper vertebrae and decompressing the lower ones. It was laborious work. At one point, a discouraged observer from the viewing room came out and reached a grim conclusion: "He'll never walk again."

Of course we're thinking about everything that can happen. But the bottom line is, we're not stopping. We're just trying to figure out the way to walk again.

-- Rene Douglas

But surgeons from the actual operating team weren't entirely without hope. The procedure, which they had expected to last up to nine hours, was completed within seven. And the spinal cord, that delicate bundle of nerves and fluid, had not been punctured or severed by the floating pieces of bone. They called the surgery a success. The waiting game began.

The racing world waited as well, eager for the news that filtered through the jockey's agent, Dennis Cooper. A tall, rangy Midwesterner with an inclination toward baseball caps and chewing tobacco, Cooper rules the roost at Arlington whenever he holds the book of a talented rider. He's the one who scheduled all those mounts for Douglas, the stakes winners and the horses that carried them to the top of the standings for so many years. They were a solid team, had a good thing going. Now it was over.

In the days following the accident, Cooper holed up in his home, doing his best to serve as a switchboard operator for the hundreds of calls coming in from around the country, around the world. He could not go to the hospital, and they didn't expect him to do so. He would have broken down.

It was Natalia who finally got through to the distraught agent, telling him to find a new rider and keep on going.

"She told him, 'Rene's alive,'" Doreen Razo said. "'That's all that matters.'"

* * *

It should be all that matters, but it isn't. For there is another jockey, one who isn't paralyzed -- Jamie Theriot -- whose horse began the domino effect that resulted in Douglas' spill. He was riding on the rail, caught up in the drive for home, when his mount went for a hole that wasn't there. The ensuing chaos, as her body slammed into the shoulder of Douglas' runner, was one of those terrible moments all riders seek to avoid. The aftermath has been even worse.

Theriot is 30 years old, the nephew of veteran jockey Larry Melancon, who rides at tracks in Kentucky and Louisiana. His life became a living hell in the weeks following the accident, as he was caught up in a swirl of allegations and conflicting rumors. He would have given anything to have not come to Arlington, to have not ridden in the Matron that weekend.

An earlier feud between the two jockeys, over a race run at Keeneland in April, complicated the situation. It was a typical postrace flare-up, one that happens all the time when riders -- still high on the adrenaline rush from competition -- lash out at each other. As in most cases, the drama died down quickly; the two didn't speak to each other for a few days, but by the first week in May they were back on even, if somewhat competitive, terms. Still, as the severity of Douglas' injuries hit the media, many were quick to jump to conclusions. They said Theriot was a danger to his fellow riders, reckless, a hot-tempered troublemaker. And although the Illinois Racing Board handed him a 30-day suspension, the doubts of his peers and his own regrets were far worse punishment.

It hurts that, you know, people look at me differently, because I would never do something like that intentionally -- put my fellow riders in danger, put our horses in danger. I would never drop another rider.

-- Jockey Jamie Theriot

"It was bad timing, limited room," Theriot said. "My horse came out about a foot -- and a foot means a lot. We're talking about inches out there, and it was tight. I knew we bumped, but I didn't even know he went down. Nobody screamed, I didn't see, I didn't know anybody fell until I pulled up and turned around and came back toward the winner's circle and saw him laying there."

The image is seared into his mind. He cries when he talks about it, and while the depth of his sorrow can be judged only by those closest to him, it is clear that the accident altered not only Douglas' life, but also Theriot's.

"It hurts that, you know, people look at me differently, because I would never do something like that intentionally -- put my fellow riders in danger, put our horses in danger. I would never drop another rider," Theriot said. "This is something I never thought would ever happen. I never thought I would be part of something like it."

It's clear that both jockeys understand the inherent risks of the profession they chose. That doesn't make Theriot's position any less regrettable, nor Douglas' situation any easier to bear. But it cements in their minds the here-today-gone-tomorrow reality of the racetrack. And when Douglas speaks of the men who are still riding -- his peers, athletes he could match strength and wits with every day -- he seems newly attuned to the fragility of their success.

"You see the top riders -- you see [Garrett] Gomez, you see [Kent] Desormeaux, you see Johnny Velazquez, you see [Edgar] Prado -- all those riders have been the best for the last 10 years," he said. "But seeing them, with all they've accomplished, and they're still riding …"

His voice trails off. When he continues, he chooses his words carefully.

"I'm not here to tell them to retire, but, you know, anything can happen in a single second," he said. "And it's not up to you. Look at me. One thing, it takes, and that's all. That's just … that's just all."

Many parallels have been drawn between horse racing and boxing, two now-lagging sports that once shared glory days. And in many ways, the riders are like boxers, determined to stay on top of the game until something profound forces them out. For Douglas, the subject is an emotional one, because he always gave 110 percent of his effort when he rode, and he won races, and it shouldn't have ended this way. It's emotional because these are his friends, his brothers, doing the same thing, taking the same risks, their lives suspended on two little silver stirrups in the hands of fate. It's emotional because now he realizes more than ever that every time he passed the wire and every time he came home safely to his family, it was another day he had been given, as a gift.

* * *

The time will come when Douglas will leave this room at the rehabilitation center and head home to Florida, to continue outpatient therapy and the single-minded pursuit of his only goal: to walk again. It is a goal he is determined to accomplish, no matter what the price, if humanly possible or if made possible by science. For now he's doing research -- spinal cord injuries, stem cell treatments -- exploring his options should therapy not produce the results he desires.

"Of course we're thinking about all the possible things that can help us if things don't go our way physically," he said. "Of course we're thinking about everything that can happen. But the bottom line is, we're not stopping. We're just trying to figure out the way to walk again."

"I just want him to get the best care possible," Natalia said. "I would love for him to walk again; we'll do whatever it takes."

Rene has been sitting slightly in front of Natalia as she shares her thoughts; that was just the way the chairs were positioned when everyone sat down. But now, as the tears fill her eyes, he laboriously unlocks the brakes on his wheelchair and backs up until they are sitting side by side. He reaches out and takes her hand. Having her next to him is everything.

Obviously, if Rene doesn't walk again, they will be forced to move on. They haven't reached that point yet. They're taking one day at a time.

"Whatever," Natalia said. "We'll retire and be happy, and that's it -- that's all there is."

"We'll go on an island where we don't have racing," he said. Then adds, quietly: "I don't want to watch racing anymore."

The words aren't bitter. Just tired. The room falls silent. Rene stares straight ahead. Finally, Natalia picks up the conversation.

"I'm happy that he's alive," she said. "I know it's hard. I know it's going to be a long road. This is just the beginning. And I know once we get home and we're doing all of this ourselves, I know it's going to be harder."

She pauses, eyes welling up with tears, and Rene grips her hand as if to show her she can stop now, it's OK. Instead, she presses on.

"But for me, it doesn't matter what the shape, whether he walks or not ever again. I'm thankful because he's alive, and I tell him every day, 'You have to be thankful.'"

The tears have spilled over, and now she is talking more to Rene than to anybody else in the room.

"I could be burying you, and trying to explain to my kids why they don't have a dad," she said. "But I have you here. And if this is the worst that could happen to you, then for that, I'm thankful."

On July 20, more than 300 people generated more than $130,000 at the golf outing and dinner that Doreen and Eddie Razo and other Arlington Park horsemen organized in honor of Rene Douglas. Dennis Cooper's new jockeys, Jermaine Bridgmohan and Fernando Jara, were there. During the live auction, Razo bid steadily on a halter that had been worn by the great Storm Cat. He was wearing a Rene Douglas baseball cap. He did not smile. But when the last bidder finally dropped out and the hammer fell and the auctioneer pointed to Razo, he broke into a triumphant grin. And he jumped from his seat, arms extended in celebration, fingers raised in a "V," for victory.

Claire Novak is an award-winning journalist whose coverage of the thoroughbred industry appears in a variety of outlets, including The Blood-Horse Magazine, The Albany Times Union and She lives in Lexington, Ky.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Jockeys know hard truth: Catastrophe lurks

He had seen Rafael Bejarano hit the ground, and he had thought there might be enough room on the rail to avoid trampling the fallen jockey. Yet in the split second Gomez was granted to make his calculations during yesterday's third race at Del Mar, Bejarano had spun into the path of his horse's hooves.

Occupational hazard. Hazardous occupation.

“A lot of times, if you're able to ball up, you can make yourself small,” Gomez said. “(But) my horse (Senor Afortunado) took a funny step and I thought I might have hit him. I was hoping that when I looked back he was almost in the (same) exact spot. But I couldn't reallysee

“I don't really know why you look back. There's nothing you can do.”

Rafael Bejarano rode in 1,290 races in 2008, and won the riding title in all five of the major Southern California meets, but the Peruvian rider left Del Mar's Opening Day in the rear of an ambulance and his next mount might be many months away.

A partial inventory of Bejarano's injuries included a fractured jaw, a broken nose and an unspecified number of damaged orbital bones. Relatively speaking, though, the rider got off easy. His horse, Mi Rey, was lethally injected — “humanely euthanized” is the racing euphemism — because of compound fractures in his right front leg.

This made for a strange and sobering scene for a record crowd of 44,907, an afternoon otherwise dominated by Del Mar's first-day dilettantes and their silly hats, conspicuous cleavage and binge drinking.

Hurt and panicked, Mi Rey hobbled toward the finish line until he could be apprehended in front of the winner's circle. Track personnel quickly unfurled green canvas screens to shield spectators from the sight of the doomed gelding.

Bejarano, meanwhile, lay scarily still in plain sight of the grandstand.

No matter how many times you witness it, the breakdown of a thoroughbred is a sad, disturbing spectacle. Nearly 60 years since it was written, W.C. Heinz's “Death of a Racehorse” remains one of the most vivid, powerful (and easily Googled) pieces of sports journalism ever published.

Yet though riders are more resilient than their fragile form of conveyance, they are no less at risk. Ron Turcotte, who won racing's Triple Crown aboard Secretariat, has been paralyzed since 1978 after a fall at Belmont Park — site of his signature triumph.

Veteran jockeys ride with the understanding that catastrophe is always lurking just around the bend.

“I don't think you ever get used to it,” Gomez said. “But you have to accept that that's part of being a jockey. When you sign up for your license, you know you're going to fall. It's just a matter of how hard. And hopefully when you fall, it's not too bad

“If you're scared of doing it, then you shouldn't be doing it. But if you're in here riding, 99 percent of us ain't scared of what we're doing. Most of us are stupid and crazy.”

Seated astride a plastic cooler after the Oceanside Stakes, five races after Bejarano's fall, Gomez ran an index finger across a set of replacement front teeth in recounting a recent mishap at Santa Anita in which his horse crashed through the inside rail.

The rider, 37, has been the nation's top money-winner three years in a row, but he has paid a high price for those purses.

“I had like five head (horses) run over me at Arlington Park in 1991,” Gomez said. “I broke my shoulder blade. I broke four ribs. I pulled all the muscles in my back and knocked some teeth out. I was only 19 years old and I was out 30 days.

“When you're 19 years old, it's amazing how fast you (heal).”

Del Mar officials were unable to project a timetable for Bejarano's return yesterday. Track President Joe Harper expressed gratitude that the jockey “will recover,” but his relief was tempered by the traumatic tableau seen by so many casual fans.

Experienced horsemen understand that serious injuries are inherent in their sport, regardless of the track surface, and that the sight of it makes a lasting impression on irregular spectators. With so many once-a-year visitors on the premises yesterday, Del Mar called an uncommon news conference to explain the sequence of events.

Dr. Rick Arthur, the California Horse Racing's Board's equine medical director, said euthanizing Mi Rey was “certainly the only choice” because the “injury was not amenable to surgical repair.”

Rafael Bejarano's consolation is that he can still be fixed.

Tim Sullivan/San Diego Union-Tribune

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Friends, supporters raise funds for injured jockey

"We thought we'd have about 72 to 100 golfers and raise about $25,000," Campbell said.

Well, the 300 or so guests who showed up Monday at Indian Lakes Resort in Bloomingdale had bigger plans. ABC 7 anchor and emcee for the night Ron Magers, former Blackhawks great Denis Savard, past Arlington Park riding champions Mark Guidry and Robby Albarado, and a slew of riders from the current meet were among the supporters.

And by the time the golf, dinner and auction were over, more than $130,000 had been raised for the Douglas family.

"I never would have guessed the numbers would have gotten that high," Campbell said. "I was very surprised."

Douglas and his wife Natalia were unable to attend Monday's event, but they provided a video thank you card to the overflow crowd.

Douglas, who was injured during a race at Arlington on May 23, is still going through intense rehabilitation sessions on a daily basis.

"He's basically in rehab full-time right now," Campbell said. "They're still hoping the swelling will go down and he'll regain the use of his legs."

If the process is getting the six-time Arlington riding champ down, he's not showing it.

"He doesn't have a defeatist attitude," Campbell said. "He and his family are very optimistic.

"His spirits are good."
By Mike Spellman | Daily Herald Staff
Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Charitable Jockey Luncheon Set for Aug. 7

The Aug. 7 luncheon on will be held from 11:30-2:30 p.m. in the Governor’s Room at Arlington Park. The event will be limited to 100 attendees with proceeds benefitting the sponsoring organizations.

Scheduled to appear are the following jockeys: Braulio Baeza, Jerry Bailey, Walter Blum, Bill Boland, Stacy Burton, Angel Cordero Jr., Jean Cruguet, Pat Day, Dave Erb, Earlie Fires, Jackie Fires, Dennis Keenan, Julie Krone, Chris McCarron, Laffit Pincay Jr., Randy Romero, John Rotz, Jose Santos, Ray Sibille, Gary Stevens, Ron Turcotte, Bobby Ussery, and Jorge Velasquez.

Tickets, which include a buffet, open bar, and a collectible program designed by equine artist Thomas Allen Pauly, are $300 and can be ordered online ( or purchased in the administrative offices at Arlington Park from Jody Musielak.

Table and event sponsorships are also available. There are 10 table sponsorships which display the name of the sponsor at the table and in the program for $2,500 each. Event sponsorships list the sponsor’s name in the program for $1,000 each. Both sponsorships will receive a limited edition poster signed by all attending jockeys, as well as a commemorative program.

All contributions are appreciated and a gift of any amount will receive a commemorative program.

For more information, visit the websites of The Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund at; the Racetrack Chaplaincy of America at; or Arlington Park at

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Canterbury Kid: Teen Becomes Star Jockey

From his silly boyish grin to his size nine shoes, the Nebraska native embodies everything a teenage boy should be. He even has a gig this summer at the racetrack at Canterbury Park in Shakopee. But what would surprise many is that during races Williams has the best seat in the house, on a horse, often times, the one that’s winning.

“They’ll be standing on the fence and they’ll say, ‘You’re not old enough to ride,’ or just stuff like that,” Williams said. “Everybody’s said I’ve always looked young ever since I started riding so I get used to it.”

For Williams, whose father and grandfather are both members of the Nebraska Horse Racing Hall of Fame, the only thing that would have been out of the ordinary would be a seat in the stands.

“That’s all I’ve ever wanted to do since I was little. My dad would let me ride the pony and stuff, and he taught me everything I knew,” Williams said.

To the dismay of his mother, Williams was ready to continue the success that preceded him by starting his professional racing career earlier than most.

“When I was 16 I asked her if I could ride and she basically said absolutely not. We kinda got her talked into it,” Williams said. “Now, if she comes to races, she’ll be the one on the rail yelling.”

Williams got his license to ride before his license to drive. On his 16th birthday, he rode his first race on his hometown track. He won two days later against none other than his hall of fame father, R.D. Williams.

“My first race, my dad was right next to me and all I remember him saying is ‘Just like the mornings, let them break and just ride them like you would in the mornings.’ And he let me ride that day, I only rode one, and then the next day I rode two more and the third day me and my dad were in the same hole that we were in in the first day. And we broke through the gate and we’re going, and we had a lane and it was him and me and I beat him at the wire,” Williams said. “So it was pretty amazing.”

Williams finished his first year with 128 wins; a number much smaller than the more than 4,000 of his father, but it’s a start.

“He was very proud. He said a hundred times that he was proud of me so I appreciate that, you know him saying that to me,” Williams said. “And I appreciate him teaching me everything I knew cause if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t have even know what horse racing was.”

Williams generally races the entire year, only taking an occasional break from the track in his three years as a pro. This leaves little, if no time to be a regular teenager, much less a typical high school student.

“I don’t miss the grouchy old teachers yelling at me to tell you the truth,” Williams said. “But I mean prom, never been to one. You know I always felt like it would be cool to go to one, but I mean when you got a job like this at this young age you’ve got to take care of your business first before you can have fun.”

Williams admits he does get caught up in being a professional athlete and the feeling of being invincible. However, he still knows the value of an education if he can’t continue his dream job down the road.

“If I have a horse that breaks down on me or I break something, break my back or something, or have a bad spill I need my education. So I’m hoping I can just get a GED or a degree,” Williams said.

But he is quick to say any formal education would only be as a backup. He doesn’t plan on quitting racing anytime soon.

“Just to have something to fall back on,” Williams said. “I’m gonna try to ride forever if I can you know.”

But injury is not the only career ending situation Williams is concerned about. Pushing six feet, he is tall by jockey standards. Williams says it’s a trait he got from his mom. The added height makes keeping the weight off difficult, especially in a horse racing world that leaves little room for an oversized jockey.

“My dad has been telling me that ever since I started I mean he’s been saying that riding is going to be the best part about it, but dieting is going to be the worst,” Williams said. “I just let it go through one ear and out the other cause I was pretty light when I first started.”

Nevertheless, with a teenage body that naturally wants to keep growing, fighting off the weight is much more difficult now. Williams cuts back on meals, runs, and burns off calories in the hot-box more often than before.

“That’s my job right there and it’s tough but when you get in the winner’s circle it’s all worth it,” Williams said.

But, Williams is still a kid and even with an understanding of the sport beyond his years, he knows there is always room for a little slack.

“Sunday night usually I do not go all out, but I’ll be able to eat the stuff that I want that I used to eat all the time before I started riding,” Williams said. “That’s the good thing about it, that’s what you know pays off with your dieting so hard cause in the end of the week your going to have

enough in where you’re going to eat a lot and go have fun and hit the lake and just do whatever you want for the day. And Monday rolls the next day and you go back to business.”

The best thing about being 18 for Dylan is that he knows he is 18.

“I mean don’t get me wrong I’m still a kid. If anyone is having a bad day I’m the kid in the jockey room. I’ll just come in and jump around and play jokes on everybody and I like being a kid. But what this job has done for me has made me mature more than I can imagine.”

Dylan is mature because he has to be. Moreover, it is this maturity that makes Dylan Williams more than just another 18-year-old kid.

“The more respectful and mature you’re going to be the more a trainer is going to say well instead of saying this is another 18 year old punk kid that’s trying to ride, this is an 18 year old kid mature kid that is going to try to win races,” said Williams.

Whether taking the role of an 18-year-old or the one of a winning jockey raised in the presence of some of the best in the sport, Williams is happy either way.

“On the racetrack it’s always fun to have people look up to me, just little kids you know, just cause I’m a jockey, and they see me as a jockey,” Williams said. “They don’t know I’m just 18 years old. And when I do leave people just see me as another kid in the store which I mean I also like....It’s always fun either way you look at it.
Ashley Bolkom/My


Click here to find out more!
Monday, July 20, 2009


 The event will be held in the outside patio area of Capital OTB’s Albany Teletheater. Food and drink will be served under a festive tent, there will be great prize giveaways throughout the night, and a popular local band, The Bluz House Rockers, will provide live entertainment. A $5.00 donation will be collected at the door with the proceeds going to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund.  

 “This is a great way for us to kick off a great 2009 Saratoga racing season, and, at the same time, lend our support to such a worthwhile charity as the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund. Capital Region racing fans are the best in the nation and this event will promote the great racing at the Spa. I want to thank the Capital OTB Board of Directors for their support with this event. I would also like to thank Charlie Hayward, Mayor Jennings and Roddy Valente for their support of the event and the PDJF,” said John Signor, President and CEO of Capital District OTB, Chairman of the event.

 Co-Chairs of the event include NYRA President/CEO, Charles Hayward  and Mayor of the City of Albany, the Honorable Gerald D. Jennings. Special guest at the event will be local racehorse owner, Roddy Valente.        

 “On behalf of the City of Albany, it is my pleasure to co-chair this event,” said the Honorable Gerald D. Jennings, Mayor of the City of Albany. “I applaud the efforts of Capital OTB President /CEO, John Signor, for creating a fun event for the Capital District’s Saratoga racing fans and for using this platform to raise awareness and funds for such a worthwhile charity as the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund.”       

 “I am pleased that John Signor has asked me to co-chair this event. We are all very excited about the upcoming 2009 Saratoga meet and the positive impact it has on the Capital Region. We are confident it will be a great racing season.  I am also proud to lend my support to such a wonderful charity as the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund, which does terrific work on behalf of the jockeys,” said Charles Hayward, President/CEO of The New York Racing Association.

 “We are very grateful to John Signor and the Capital District OTB Corporation for their efforts on behalf of the PDJF.  It is critically important that all segments of the racing industry help those who can’t help themselves,” said Terry Meyocks, National Manager, Jockeys Guild. 

 “We are very pleased to be the named charity for the “Jammin for Jockeys” event hosted by the Capital OTB Corporation,” said Nancy LaSala, Executive Director of the PDJF. “It is with the support of the horse racing community that our goal to grow this fund and form an endowment that will be self-sustaining is made possible.”

 Saratoga racing is like Christmas in July. The Capital OTB event this Friday will help promote the terrific racing at Saratoga Racetrack and the tremendous work done by the PDJF on behalf of the Jockeys,” said Roddy Valente.   

 “On behalf of the Capital OTB Board of Directors and management, I want to wish all the Capital Region racing fans a fun and profitable Saratoga race meet. I also want to thank all those involved – Mr. Hayward, Mayor Jennings and Mr. Valente -- for supporting a great charity, the PDJF.” said Capital OTB Chairman of the Board, Marcel Webb.   NYRA Communications Department 



Monday, July 20, 2009


 “It was just like when Eddie had the ‘bug’ and won the (1986) riding title at Hawthorne while still an apprentice,” said Mrs. Baird.  “You want it for your son. 

“It brought back a lot of memories – like when Bobby was still riding,” added the mother of Arlington’s current leading rider.  “You keep telling yourself not to get excited, but you do anyway.  I wasn’t here (Thursday).   If he had done it then I would have missed it.

 “When I talked to him this morning,” said Mrs. Baird, “he told me: ‘You had better be at the track – I think I’m going to get there today.’ He didn’t know (E. T.’s agent Michelle Barsotti and I) already had a plan to be out here for this.  I’m just glad I made it out, because I don’t think I’ll be here for win number 4,000.

 “I remember when Eddie was a little boy and Bobby was riding,” Marie said.  “He always wanted to grow up to be a jockey just like his Dad.  Bobby and I would be out in the living room and we’d hear Eddie in the bedroom where there was a mirror at the foot of the bed.  He’d be practicing switching sticks and we’d hear him from where we were.  He tore up a lot of bedspreads – and they were puffy kind with a lot of stitches that were hard to replace.”

  Following his Friday milestone, Baird said, “It feels good.  I grew up here and started my career in Chicago.  It’s a great place to get a milestone and I wouldn’t want to do it anyplace else.”

 Arlington’s current leading rider has never won a title at Arlington Park, but is in front by nine victories at the halfway point of the Northwest Chicago oval’s summer session which concludes Sept. 27.  The 42-year old reinsman enjoyed a five-win afternoon on Million Preview Day July 11 that included three stakes victories.
Arlington Park Communications Department
Monday, July 20, 2009


            Trainer Doug O’Neill celebrated his eighth crown in the last 14 meets here with 36 wins entering the final day of a 55-day session Sunday while Rosario cherished his first riding crown in the United States with 79 wins.

            “I’m very happy and excited and want to thank all the trainers and owners for giving me this opportunity to ride the better horses at Hollywood Park,” said Rosario Sunday.

            Rosario, a 24-year-old native of the Dominican Republic, dethroned defending champion Rafael Bejarano and ended his six-meet victory streak on the Southern California circuit. Bejarano was second with 69 wins.

            “I thought I had a chance to win this meet,” said Rosario. “I was second last year and second at Del Mar and third at Santa Anita. You need to be a little lucky, but I thought if I tried hard it could happen.”

            Rosario mathematically clinched the title Saturday. “I knew I had a big lead but I was happy to wrap it up with a stakes win,” said Rosario of a victory aboard Evita Argentina in the $150,000 A Gleam Handicap.

            O’Neill was back at work Sunday after returning from a 10-day Mediterranean cruise with his family Saturday night.

            “It was the first time we had been on a cruise and I got to enjoy seeing Spain, Italy and Greece knowing the stable was in such good hands,” said O’Neill. “I’ve got a great crew and great owners.”

            O’Neill, 41, won previous Spring/Summer crowns in 2003, 2005 and 2007 and Autumn titles in 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008.

            “Winning the Californian with Informed was pretty exciting,” said O’Neill of a meet highlight. “To win a graded stake for a horse owned by a friend since grade school, Mark Verge, and his buddies was really something.”

            O’Neill credited the Cushion Track here for much of his success. “We had a lot of starters, and some of that is due to training on this track,” said O’Neill. “We had no hiccups. We were very happy with this track.”
Hollywood Park Communications Department
Friday, July 17, 2009



            Baird was joined in the winner’s circle by family, friends, and agent Michelle Barsotti as well as his fellow riders and Arlington Park executives as a video played saluting the milestone score as well as highlights of his entire career.


“Great milestone,” said Baird after the victory.  “This is a great place to do it. I grew up here and I wouldn’t want to have gotten it anywhere else.”


The 42-year-old native of Arlington Heights was the 1996 riding champion at Hawthorne while still an apprentice and has been a mainstay on the Chicago circuit virtually his entire career.  He entered Friday’s card as the meet’s leading jockey with an eight-win advantage over his closest rival.  Arlington Park Communications Department


Friday, July 17, 2009

Borel to Receive Espy as 'Top Jockey'

The 17th annual awards program will be presented on ESPN July 19 at 9 p.m. ET.

Borel was cited as "Best Jockey" after winning the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) with Mine that Bird and the BlackBerry Preakness Stakes (gr. I) aboard Rachel Alexandra.
The Blood-Horse
Friday, July 17, 2009

The way jockeys crouch allows horses to run faster

It's not wind resistance. That tough balancing crouch saves the horse some energy.

First, the fun history: Racing fans might have heard of Tod Sloan, an 1890s U.S. jockey widely credited with sparking the trend of shortening stirrups and leaning over the horse's neck — and along the way taking England by storm and inspiring an early George M. Cohan musical with a song called Yankee Doodle Boy. The days of tall-in-the-saddle racing ended quickly as other riders adopted the crouch.

Fast forward to 2009 and a University of London research team famed for studying how horses and other animals move.

In more than 100 years of recorded race times, the biggest improvement — a 5 percent to 7 percent change — came near the turn of the 20th century, when jockeys changed their posture, the Royal Veterinary College team reports Friday in the journal Science.

To find out why, researchers stuck a GPS unit in some jockeys' helmets and inertia sensors on the riders and five speedy racehorses, and they hit the track to measure training races.

Researchers discovered that the jockeys' crouch lets them isolate their bodies from the horse's movement — the horse is moving up and down a lot more than its rider. When the horse's feet hit the ground, its motion temporarily slows until accelerating again with push-off. Through incredible effort that makes the jockey's legs act like a spring, his or her mass stays at a more constant speed. It's basic physics.

"The jockey adds weight but not inertia to the horse," said research fellow Andrew Spence, a study co-author. The jockeys "say things like, 'You need to go with the flow of the horse.' ... The neat part of the study is, we've shown how that happens mechanically."

And that information, he said, could help in the quest to build better robots that can handle a bumpy environment.

It fits with other research: University of Pennsylvania scientists discovered a few years ago that a backpack made to bob up and down less as the wearer walks is far easier to carry, because it reduces the extra force when the pack comes down.

"The horse expends a lot of energy in the fact that the body slows and they have to speed it up again," said Dr. Susan Stover of the University of California-Davis, who studies the biomechanics of racehorse injuries. "The argument these people put forward is very compelling."  By Lauran Neergaard Associated Press
Friday, July 17, 2009

'Incredible' Journey: From Paralyzed to Helping Others Walk

On August 5, 2006, Janne Kouri dove into the ocean off California and crashed his head into a hidden sandbar. He knew immediately his life would never be the same.

"Instantly I could tell I was paralyzed," said Kouri, then 31, of Hermosa Beach, Calif. "I was just floating in the water and I got flipped over on my back and there were waves crashing over me so I knew something bad had happened, because I could not move my body at all so I just took a deep breath and basically hoped for the best. I thought, 'this could be it.'"

Thanks to a passing off-duty EMT, it was not the end of Kouri's life, but it was the end of his ability to walk -- or so the medical experts told his then-girlfriend Susan Moffat.

Kouri, a director of an online social network who had been a star defensive tackle on the Georgetown University football field with NFL prospects, was called "the general" by his friends because of his take-charge attitude.

With that determination and the help of radical new treatment, Kouri eventually retaught his spine to function properly and learned to walk again, with the help of a walker.

Not satisfied with overcoming his own obstacles, Kouri and Moffat set up a clinic to help other victims.

From Devastation to Hope

Moffat remembers clearly what the doctor told her after they rushed Kouri to the hospital that day in 2006.

"I just remember a female doctor coming out and saying to me, 'Um, just so you know, he's never going to walk again,'" Moffat, 33, said through tears. "It was devastating."

After surgery, a bout of pneumonia and two months in intensive care, Kouri's health returned, but then reality set in.

"How am I going to live my life moving forward? And all these things I had planned, am I ever going to be able to do them?" he said. "You're kind of left there wondering. Just tell yourself, 'I am going to get myself out of this situation one way or another. I am going to get myself out of this.'"

Moffat took it upon herself to do research and visit rehab centers. She eventually found Susie Harkema at the Frazier Institute in Louisville, Ky.

"She said to me, 'There's hope,'" Moffat said. "And she was the first person throughout this whole process that said that to me."

Kouri Stands Up to Help Others

Moffat quit her job and the couple moved to Louisville to work with Harkema, who helped develop a radical new therapy known as locomotor training. The late actor Christopher Reeve was among the first test subjects for the therapy.

"The spinal cord is very sophisticated. It can process complex information. It can make decisions, remember, forget," Harkema explained.

Locomotor training reteaches the spinal cord how to control motor functions, like walking, through repetitive motion. After 15 years of experimentation, the therapy has now helped hundreds of spinal cord injury victims.

"I was thrilled to get out of that hospital," Kouri said. "Just very excited about finally getting into rehabilitation and starting to exercise and work out and starting to get myself out of this predicament that I was in."

After just three months of training, Kouri had his first milestone -- a little toe wiggle.

"I looked down at my toe and I saw it wiggling and it was an incredible, incredible moment," he said. "And I said, 'you know what? I've got a chance here.'"

Full of hope, Kouri wanted to return to California and continue locomotor training near his home, but it wasn't available.

"We brought this to my father and my family and my friends saying 'Hey, we need to do something about the situation. I can't find the type of treatment and rehab that I want in California," he said. "That means that nobody there can."

Between rounds of therapy, Kouri married Moffat and then, with the help of family, friends, Harkema and the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, they raised the funds to start Next Step Fitness, an affordable not-for-profit rehab center in Los Angeles where anyone in the community could get locomotor training at an affordable cost.

So far 65 people have been treated at Next Step Fitness, which is funded by donations and grants and is one of only 8 places in the U.S. where locomotor training is available.

"They took Janne's spinal cord injury which could have stopped both of them in their tracks completely and turned it around," Susan Howley of the Reeve Foundation said. "And they have done something so remarkably creative and gutsy, really, in a way."

Continuing Legacy of Chris and Dana Reeve

The only thing bigger than Kouri's drive, determination and stubbornness, friends say, is his heart.

In May, Kouri, now 34, took his first steps in three years with the assistance of a walker.

"The look of triumph on his face was so phenomenal because," Howley said. "This was a young man who a couple of years ago had been told unequivocally you'll never walk again."

But for Kouri, that's just the beginning.

"Eventually, you know, I'm getting rid of the walker and walking out of that gym," he said. "I'm confident that I'm going to do it, and I understand that it's not going to happen tomorrow, but it will happen one day.

"You hear it all the time, but if you put your mind to it, you can make it happen. But you know it's true that if you stay focused and work every single day, you really can do whatever you set your mind to," he added.

Moffat says the experience has made them stronger as a couple, and those who knew Christopher and Dana Reeve say Kouri and Moffat's commitment to helping others is a continuation of the Reeve's legacy.

"Chris [Reeve] would probably say, 'I knew he could do it,'" Howley said. "To the rest of us he would say, 'Now figure out how to get a 150 more Next Step Fitnesses all over the country.'"

"A lot about their spirit and dedication reminds me of Chris and Dana. It's people like these two that are going to move forward Chris and Dana's legacy," Harkema said. "The only sadness that I have about Janne's story is that Chris and Dana aren't here to see it, because they would have been thrilled."

Kouri's father, who was instrumental in opening Next Step Fitness, recently passed away, and Kouri hopes to continue the work that made his father so proud.

"My father's the closest person in the world to me; his passing has been harder than this injury," Kouri said. "But then again he taught me to be strong ... that's another thing that's extremely motivating is to show him that we could make this successful."

Kouri and Moffat also hope they will be able to track down the EMT who saved Kouri's life and thank him.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

'Jockeys' Second Season to Begin Aug. 21

Two new jockeys, Garrett Gomez and Corey Nakatani, join the program this season with six others returning from last year -- Chantal Sutherland, Mike Smith, Joe Talamo, Alex Solis, Kayla Stra and Aaron Gryder. The series follows their lives through the complex world of horse racing, both on the track and off.

Episodes this season have been expanded from 30 minutes to a full hour.

The premiere episode airs at 10 p.m. on both coasts. All subsequent shows will be broadcast on Fridays at 9 p.m.  The Blood-Horse

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Thompson ties record

Thompson, who also won six races on May 20, 2002, lost just once in seven mounts on Monday, July 13.
“It was a great day,” Thompson said. “If a jockey can win a race a day, that is difficult. To win two, you had a heck of a day. Just to accomplish the six wins, it’s a great feeling.”
Thompson took the first three races with Doughnut Man, who paid $5.60 for a $2 win wager, Quite a Dude ($6.40), and Save our Soul ($8.00). Then he won the fifth race on Handsome Blue ($3.40).
He finished up with two photo-finish victories, taking the eighth by a nose on Will E. Scat ($7.80) and the 10th by a neck on Tomcat Row.
“They hung on for both photos, so everything was going my way today,” Thompson said.
Three of his wins were for the owner-trainer team of Maggi Moss and Chris Richard. He might have been 7-for-7, but he gave up the mount on Zoran, who won the fourth race, to ride fourth-place finisher Dr. Nick for Richard.
The six wins gave Thompson a meet-high 75 victories at Prairie Meadows, 22 more than runner-up Tim Doocy. He ranks 12th nationally with 142 wins this year.
Des Moines Daily Register
Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Laffit Pincay Jr. represents horse racing perfectly

Laffit Pincay Jr. was in the winner's circle at Hollywood Park again last weekend. Lord knows how many times he has been there before.

The dress code for him is different these days; it has been since he retired as a jockey in 2003. The coat and tie is still not his uniform of choice in that arena.

Pincay is 62. He won 9,530 races and horses he rode won $237.4 million. That he is in the Hall of Fame is a given. When he was inducted in 1975, he hadn't even begun to approach the greatness that came later.

His appearance Saturday, before the seventh race and about half an hour before the running of the 70th Hollywood Gold Cup -- which he won a record nine times -- was to present an award in his name to former jockey Merlin Volzke, who is 83.

"He never had many big horses to ride," Pincay said a few days before the presentation. "But my wife, Linda, used to bet on him all the time and do pretty well. She called him Merlin the Magician."

The ceremony, nicely handled by the participants, was lost on most of the 10,091 who attended on a day in horse racing that once drew six or seven times that many.

There was another race going on from somewhere else, and voices echoed down the hallways, rooting home some $15,000 claimer from Pleasanton on TV monitors and momentarily drowning out what was taking place in front of the grandstand. Apparently, no ceremony is worth paying attention to when your 2-6-3 trifecta is alive.

Racing shot itself in the foot years ago, when it got greedy and started allowing anybody to bet on anything from anywhere. Once, going to Hollywood Park was a special event, a self-contained occasion. Now, even on the bigger days, it is more like a place to find a bigger TV set and a handy betting window.

The wound is not healing and the bulldozers hover nearby, awaiting a better economic climate so the investors from the north can make Hollywood Park into condos and larger profits.

Lost in all this is a history and tradition that the sport could draw on, that the likes of Pincay represent. His is a story that could have the prominence of DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak, the allure of Ali-Frazier. Horse racing fans know it and have kind of forgotten. General sports fans may be surprised to hear it.

On March 1, 2003, Santa Anita Handicap Day, the most famous jockey in the world was aboard a horse named Trampus Too in the fifth race, a dash down the hill on Santa Anita's famed turf course that turns right before it turns left and then crosses a stretch of dirt on the way home.

Near that stretch, an inexperienced jockey moved out and into the path of Trampus Too, who clipped the back of the legs and sent Laffit Pincay flying. He landed on his neck, Trampus Too landed on top of him and a series of events would transpire that made Pincay's appearance in the winner's circle last Saturday yet another chapter in an ongoing miracle.

Pincay's second wife, Jeanine, was in attendance that March day in 2003. Not wanting to worry her, Pincay somehow got to his feet, told the ambulance personnel he was OK, other than a huge pain in his neck, and eventually got a medical official who was not an M.D., to let him go home. Diagnosis: Take some pain pills, rest and it'll be better in a day or so.

For four days, with no sleep, but with the usual jockey's testosterone battling reality, Pincay assured everybody he was all right. Despite the constant pain, he got on his wooden horse at home and worked out. He walked a lap around the Rose Bowl. He even set out on the third morning to work a horse, and would have done so had not the trainer called off the work because the horse didn't need it.

Finally, after getting a massage in his neck area and getting no relief and after running into fellow jockey Alex Solis and hearing how Solis just had a physical and the doctor had discovered, in an X-ray Solis had never bothered to have, a broken neck he'd had for years, Pincay decided to succumb to Jeanine's wishes and go to a doctor.

He knew something was horribly wrong when the doctor returned from the X-ray reading and told him not to move.

"He said I was the luckiest man alive," Pincay said.

He had suffered three broken bones in his neck. One of the breaks is called a "hangman's fracture," the bone that breaks when people die by hanging.

Immediately, they put a surgical halo on his head, which consists of screws drilled into his head and connected to rods that hold his neck in place. He was in that for about two months, and the only thing as painful as having it put on was having it taken off.

Eventually, doctors told him that he should, by all rights, be paralyzed; that the only reason he wasn't spending the rest of his life in a wheelchair was that the muscles in his neck were so strong they somehow held the bones in place and that, had he waited one more day to get to the hospital, the swelling that came with the injury, and also held the bones in place, would have gone down enough for any slight movement to cause paralysis.

Then, they told him he should never ride again, a recommendation he rejected until family and friends, and a phone call from Bill Shoemaker, convinced Pincay of the reality.

Now, it is six years later and he has become one of his sport's best ambassadors. He is to horse racing what Wayne Gretzky is to hockey, Bart Starr is to football, Bill Russell is to basketball. He has a book out called "Anatomy of a Winner," which would have been more aptly named "Profiles in Courage" if that Kennedy fellow hadn't already taken that title.

As horse racing continues to struggle, partly because it sends all its equine stars to the breeding barn too early, it ought to consider that it has a star of the human variety perfectly qualified to carry a baton.

Meet Laffit Pincay Jr., who could be horse racing's walking, talking billboard.

Thank God.
Monday, July 13, 2009


 Baird, 42, the Chicago-born son of the late Chicago-based reinsman Bobby Baird, culminated Saturday’s winning quintet with a tally aboard Jonathan Sheppard’s Just as Well in the $200,000 Arlington Handicap after taking down winning honors in the $200,000 Arlington Sprint in the previous race astride Encore Racing Stable’s Yankee Injunuity.

 Other Saturday scores by Baird came in the third race on Scarlet Stable’s Big Rushlet, in the fourth on Frank Calabrese’s Sedona Belle, and in the $53,300 Diamond Ring Stakes astride Calabrese’s Romacac  “This is probably one of the best days I’ve ever had around here,” said Baird immediately after the racing program.  “I knew I had some good horses to ride today, but I try not to ‘overthink’ these things.  I just try to play things as they work out.  If things follow that way – all the better
“The best part is for me to be around here after riding here for 25 years,” said Baird.  “There are just so many that can happen in this sport.  I wouldn’t even have to be leading rider here to be happy, or get to 2,000 wins.  I’m just happy to still be here.”
Baird has never won a riding title at Arlington, but leads the standings through Saturday with 51 wins, seven more than his nearest pursuer.
Arlington Park Communications Department
Monday, July 13, 2009

Jockeys must forget danger

However, the ability to forget is necessary, too. They must forget an ambulance trails their every move. They must forget that vehicle is there because their jobs are among the most dangerous in sports. And they must never ponder the reality of what can happen in the blink of an eye.

"We were watching the race on the TV in the jockey's room," said Carlos Gonzales, a jockey at Harrah's Louisiana Downs in Bossier City. "We saw the horse go down and were like, 'Oh no, who was that?'"

After clipping heels at the top of the stretch that day at Arlington Park outside of Chicago, Born to Be — and the jockey Rene Douglas — went down in a heap. The 1,000-plus pound animal crushed Douglas, a six-time leading rider at Arlington (two-time defending champ).

Track workers were forced to drag the downed filly off Douglas, who suffered a broken neck and will likely never walk again.

The injury stunned the horse racing community. But guys like Gonzales had to erase the memory within minutes. Their next mounts were calling.

"You can't ride scared," said Gonzales, whose worst career moment came when his horse hit the turf at Lone State Park in Grand Prairie, Texas, five years ago, causing Gonzales to suffer a broken ankle and fibula. "You can be too careful. If you're thinking about that in the race and having flashbacks, you're not going to run a good race. You have to clear your mind."

The sport's safety measures are at an all-time best, but no flak jacket or helmet can prevent an accident. It's a risky business when 12 or 14 humans are in tight-knit quarters aboard animals traveling around 40 miles per hour.

"You can't ever be 100-percent safe out there because you're riding an animal. You're not riding in a car," said La. Downs jockey Chris Rosier. "You can't check your tires before you go out there. Once the gate opens, it's up to you and your animal."

However, jockeys can employ a respect for each other. And that alone can saves lives.

"You have a few people that want to be greedy, not so much aggressive, but greedy and they'll push and shove you," Gonzales said.

In the fallout from the Douglas tragedy, jockey Jamie Theriot was dealt a 30-day suspension for fouling Born to Be while going for a hole on his mount, Sky Mom. Theriot is in line to grab the mount of Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird in the West Virginia Derby on Aug. 1.

"Sometimes you're so competitive you try to put your horse in a spot," Gonzales said. "What Theriot did wasn't intentional or anything like that, but there was only room for one horse."

Rosier, who rode Summer Bird (the eventual Belmont Stakes winner) in the Kentucky Derby this year, believes experience proves invaluable in dangerous circumstances.

"You know (other jockeys') styles," said Rosier, whose most prominent injuries have been broken collarbones and concussions. "You know how much horse you got, how much they got. (Apprentice jockeys) don't know what to do in tight situations, but everyone was a bug rider once and made mistakes. You have to watch out and talk to younger riders and try to give them a heads up."

While no numbers specific to Louisiana Downs were made available, a study conducted at the University of North Carolina at the beginning of this decade showed an average of two jockeys died every year in the United States.

According to a recent Australian report, the jockey profession is more dangerous than boxing, and is only outranked in the most dangerous job stakes by off-shore fishermen. Five jockeys died in the four-year time frame (2002-06) of the Australian study.

A third of incidents occur around the starting gate. However, jockeys tend to suffer the most serious injuries when the horses are at full steam.

"The tracks are doing everything they can," Gonzales said. "And I don't think there is any other type of safety equipment we can use."

The UNC report concluded riders sustained 606 injuries per 1,000 jockey years. Nearly one in five injuries were to the riders' head or neck, more than 15 percent were to legs, 11 percent to arms or hands, more than 10 percent to feet or ankles and almost 10 percent to shoulders.

Horse racing may be unusually dangerous compared to other professional sports, but the underlying theme is common: winning. Crossing the finish line first leads to more money and better mounts.

"You have to put on a good show and give 100 percent every time," Rosier said. "If (the safety factor) bothers you and scares you, you shouldn't be out there because that hurts you more than anything." Roy Lang III/Shreveport Times

Additional Facts
Friday, July 10, 2009

NYRA Testing Padded Riding Crops

 Changes to the design of the crop include a new maximum length of 30 inches and maximum weight of eight ounces.  The “popper” – the end of the crop that touches the horse – has been lengthened to seven inches and cushioned to absorb shock. 

 “They are softer than the regular [crops] and it’s definitely not as hard on the horses,” said jockey John Velazquez.  “I rode with them at Keeneland and you just have to get used to the feeling – it’s a little bit lighter than my other [crop].”

 The cushioned crops are recommended in the safety guidelines issued by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association’s Safety and Integrity Alliance and conform to new guidelines developed by the Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI).  Belmont Park was fully-accredited by the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance on May 29, with NYRA’s Aqueduct Racetrack and Saratoga Race Course expected to be certified later this year.   

 A full explanation of the new crop specifications can be found in the ARCI Model Rules (rule 010-035), available online at:
NYRA Communications Department
Friday, July 10, 2009


            Bejarano, a 27-year-old native of Arequipa, Peru, rode his first winner in 2001 at Hipodromo de Monterrico in his homeland. He registered his 2,000th on Walsh-trained Good Time Sally in the fifth race. Walsh, who has saddled 1,150 career winners, also sent out Heathersdaddysbaby to win the third race.

            Bejarano, who began riding in Southern California during Hollywood Park’s 2007 Autumn Meet, swept the five major Southern California riding titles in 2008 and won the recent Santa Anita meeting crown. He trails Joel Rosario by a 69-63 margin with seven days remaining at the 55-day Spring/Summer Meet, but he was not concerned Thursday.

            “I am very happy to be here,” he said. “My agent (Joe Ferrer) has done a great job.”

            Al and Sandee Kirkwood’s Bootleg Annie covered one mile on the Lakeside Turf Course in 1:34.64 and was not seriously threatened by runner-up Bahama Mama in the stretch while cruising to a 1 ¾-length victory. Bitterbutsweet finished another 1 ½ lengths back in third.

            Bootleg Annie, the even-money favorite, paid $4 and $2.20. Bahama Mama returned $2.40. There was no show betting in the field of four.

            The victory — worth $45,240 — increased Bootleg Annie’s earnings to $373,358. The 5-year-old mare has won 14 of 28 starts.

            Rosario and Bejarano each rode a pair of winners Thursday.
Hollywood Park Communications Department
Thursday, July 09, 2009


 NYRA will contribute $50,000 while NYTHA and The Jockey Club will donate $25,000 each. All 29 of the regular NYRA-based riders have pledged to donate, through a voluntary checkoff program, $1 from each mount.

 “This is an example of industry stakeholders working together to do the right thing for the welfare of racehorses when they can no longer race,” said Diana Pikulski, executive director of the TRF. “We are very grateful to NYRA, NYTHA, The Jockey Club and the Jockeys’ Guild and we would encourage organizations and individuals at other racing circuits around the country to follow their example.”

 “This is an interim step while the New York racing community works out a more comprehensive and detailed plan to deal with this issue,” said Hal Handel, executive vice president and chief operating officer of NYRA. “We want to have something in place that we can all be proud of.”

 “We make our living because of these horses,” said John Velazquez, four-time leading NYRA jockey. “Because of that, we love to be a big part of helping out with retired horses and enabling them to be better cared for.”

 “After the situation with the Paraneck horses, I felt strongly that we needed to do something to make sure these horses are well taken care of after their racing careers,” said Richard Migliore, a  fixture of the NYRA jockey colony. “They give us so much that it is really important we try and take care of them when they are done racing.”

 The NYRA jockeys’ donations will be retroactive to June 27. The Kentucky Derby jockeys contributed $75,000 earned through their Derby sponsorships to the TRF earlier this year.

 “Ensuring the proper care of Thoroughbreds after their racing careers are over is obviously a very serious issue and it’s good to see it move from the back burner to the front burner,” said Rick Violette, president of NYTHA. “NYTHA and its horsemen are proud to lend a hand in the effort.”

 In January, The Jockey Club instituted a voluntary retirement checkoff option for owners and breeders that benefits Thoroughbred Charities of America and the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, with The Jockey Club matching the checkoff donations with up to $200,000 in 2009.

 “Regardless of the amount raised through the checkoff, we will guarantee our $100,000 matching donation to each of those two charities,” said Alan Marzelli, president of The Jockey Club. “In so doing, we will earmark $25,000 of the contribution to TRF for this New York-based effort.”

 The Jockeys’ Guild is an organization that was formed and is governed by Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse jockeys who ride throughout the United States. The organization represents jockeys on a national and local basis to address issues concerning riders. The Jockeys’ Guild also assists injured and disabled riders and their families. The Guild has served as an advocate for the jockeys since it was incorporated in 1940. Additional information is available at

 Founded in 1955, and franchised to run thoroughbred racing at New York’s three major tracks through 2033, the New York Racing Association boasts a lineage that actually stretches back almost 150 years. NYRA tracks are the cornerstone of the state’s Thoroughbred business, which contributes more than $2 billion annually to New York State’s urban, suburban and rural economy. In 2008, 1,735,715 people attended the live races at NYRA tracks. Factoring nationwide off-track wagering, the average daily betting handle on NYRA races alone totals more than $9.7 million every race day. NYRA has a vast network of websites, including,, and

 For over half a century, NYTHA has represented the interests of horse owners and trainers at NYRA tracks. NYTHA’s mission is composed of safeguarding horsemen’s financial interests, providing benevolence to the backstretch community and supporting equine research. Additional information is available at

 The Jockey Club, founded in 1894 and dedicated to the improvement of Thoroughbred breeding and racing, is the breed registry for North American Thoroughbreds. In fulfillment of its mission, The Jockey Club provides support and leadership on a wide range of important industry initiatives and it serves the information and technology needs of owners, breeders, media, fans and farms, among others. Additional information is available at

 Founded in 1983, the TRF is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to retiring Thoroughbred racehorses after they are finished racing. TRF operates retraining and adoption facilities and satellite farms across the country as well as vocational training in equine care for inmates at nine correctional facilities nationwide. TRF currently maintains approximately 1,800 horses. Additional information is available at


For additional information:

 Terry Meyocks, Jockeys’ Guild: (859) 305-0606

Dan Silver, NYRA: (516) 488-6000

Rick Violette, NYTHA: (718) 848-5045

Bob Curran Jr., The Jockey Club: (212) 521-5326

Diana Pikulski, TRF: (518) 226-0028

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Theriot Works Mine That Bird At Churchill


            Jockey Jamie Theriot was aboard the gelded son of Birdstone as he covered the half-mile over a “fast” track in :49.40.


            Mine That Bird started slowly, but finished fast as he covered the distance in fractional times of :13.20, :25.60 and :38 and galloped out five furlongs in 1:01.80.  The clocking reflects a final eight in 11:40 and he galloped out the extra furlong in :12.40.


            “He did it very easy,” said Theriot.  “He came off the track bouncing.”


            “The horse looked perfect – he did just what I asked,” said trainer Chip Woolley.  “Jamie did a good job on him. He started off a little slow and picked it up all the way.  It looked like he got the last eighth in :11-and-two and he was :12-and-two past the wire in another eighth, so he looked sharp.  That was what we were looking for.”


            Mine That Bird is training toward a run in the $750,000 West Virginia Derby (Grade II) at Mountaineer on Aug. 1.  That race would be his first since a third-place run behind Summer Bird in the Belmont Stakes (GI) on June 6.


            The Kentucky Derby winner is scheduled to work again on Monday, July 13 and could remain in his familiar surroundings at Churchill Downs until just before race day at the West Virginia track.


            “I haven’t decided for sure if I’ll take him and work him one time at Mountaineer right before the race or just stay here and go into the race from here,” Woolley said.  “Either way, the horse is doing good and is ready to roll.”


      A Triple Crown run that included his win in the Kentucky Derby, a runner-up finish to Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness (GI) and his third-place run in the Belmont Stakes left Mine That Bird’s record at 5-2-1 in 11 races with earnings of $2,121,581.
Churchill Downs Communications Department
Monday, July 06, 2009

Leparoux Wins Churchill Leading Jockey Title

The leading rider title was the third spring crown for Leparoux and fifth overall.
Churchill Downs Communications Department
Monday, July 06, 2009


 All 21 races over the inaugural Fasig-Tipton Festival of Racing weekend will be included in the contest, with trainers and jockeys compiling points on a 5-3-1 system for win, place, and show, with double points for horses that passed through the Fasig-Tipton sales ring.

 Fans will be able to follow along with scorecards in the official track program, and updates will be posted on NYRA TV in between the races.

 The New York Racing Association, Inc. will donate $5,000 to the Permanently Disabled Jockey Fund in the name of the winning jockeys. Additionally, the top three scoring jockeys will win $3,000, $2,000 and $1,000.  Fasig-Tipton will donate a total of $11,000 to the equine charities of choice for the top three trainers:  $6,000 in the name of the winning trainer, $3,000 in the name of the second-place trainer and $2,000 in the name of the third-place trainer.

 Awards will be presented to the individual winners in the winner’s circle on Monday, Aug. 10, between the third and fourth races.

 “The Jockey-Trainer contest is a great way for the fans to become more involved with racing and to become more acquainted with the top jockeys and trainers who are in Saratoga for the Festival of Racing,” said Fasig-Tipton President Boyd Browning.

 Celebrating the partnership between racing and yearling sales, the Fasig-Tipton Festival of Racing features a variety of special events in addition to an exciting weekend of stakes action featuring the Grade 1, $750,000 Whitney Handicap and the Grade 1 $300,000 Test for three-year-old fillies on Saturday and the Grade 2 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap and the Grade 2, $150,000 Honorable Miss Handicap on Sunday.

 NYRA Communications Department


Monday, July 06, 2009

Borel Autograph Session at Belmont Park Raises $4K:

The popular rider signed 8x10 photos of Rachel Alexandra (Medaglia d' Oro)'s record-breaking GI Mother Goose S. win at $10 a piece, totaling $2,170. The New York Racing Association followed suit, and matched that number, for a total of$4,340 going to the PDJF. AJockeys put their health at risk every time they get onto the track,@ said NYRAPresident and CEO Charles Hayward. AWe are thrilled to be able to match the money raised today, and want to thank Calvin for agreeing to take part in the signing.
The Thoroughbred Daily News
Thursday, July 02, 2009


 Borel will sign 8x10 glossy, color copies of Rachel Alexandra from the June 27 Grade 1 Mother Goose Stakes, a race in which the Steve Asmussen-trained filly shattered two stakes records – margin of victory and final time.  The daughter of Medaglia d’Oro defeated her two rivals by a 19¼-length margin, considerably more than the 13½-length victory achieved by the great Ruffian in 1975, and completed the race in 1:46.33, besting Lakeway’s previous record of 1:46.58 set in 1994.

 Borel, in town Saturday to ride A. Stevens Miles Jr.’s Warrior’s Reward in the Grade 2 Dwyer Stakes, narrowly missed a chance to be the first jockey in history to win all three Triple Crown races aboard two different horses.  After a major upset in the Kentucky Derby with Mine That Bird, Borel took off the gelding to ride Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness, making history when she became the first filly in 85 years to win that race.  Back on Mine That Bird in the Belmont Stakes, Borel finished third behind Summer Bird and Dunkirk

 The autograph-signing will take place outside of The NYRA Store on the second floor of the Belmont Clubhouse.  Autographed photos are $10 each, with all proceeds going to benefit the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (PDJF),  a 501(c)(3) public charity that provides financial assistance to former jockeys who have suffered catastrophic on-track injuries.  For more information about PDJF, please visit:

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Injured rider Douglas offers update

Douglas suffered injuries to his spinal cord that caused him to lose feeling in his legs as well as injuries to his neck and ribs on May 23 in a spill at Arlington Park.

The letter, in its entirety, follows:

“I want to thank you for all your support, your prayers and all your messages. I've been trying to read all of your posts and little by little I will catch up.

“I've been trying to start therapy but I've had a few issues with my lungs and that has prevented me from starting rehab in full. I'm getting stronger every day with the help of my family and friends and I will give my best once I go back to rehab.

“The road ahead of me will be long and hard but I'm ready to face it and to do the best I can to complete it and to achieve the best results possible.

“I would love to thank each one of you personally, but if I did that I wouldn't have enough time to do therapy. Just know that I appreciate it and that your support inspires me everyday to continue and to give my all.

With Love,
Rene Douglas”
Frank Angst/Thoroughbred Times


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