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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Simington manages to outdo himself

"Our goal coming in is to do as well as we can and last week we surpassed what we did here last year," Simington said of reaching 102 wins, his total as the meet's leading rider in 2008. "To be able to surpass what we did last year has made it a great meet."

So have a pair of five-win days and a score aboard Takin' the Bullet in the $150,000 A.L. "Red" Erwin Stakes on Sept. 5. They are part of the meet highlight reel for Simington, who has won 106 races to date and leads all riders in mount earnings with $1.7 million. Francisco Torres is a clear second in the standings, with 79 wins through Tuesday.

For Simington, a couple of different factors drove his dominant meet in 2009.

"It was the quality of horses we got to ride," he said. "And we rode for a bunch of different people. We also picked up some new clients."

Among them was trainer Allen Milligan, who brought a division of horses to Louisiana Downs this meet and ranked fifth in the standings through Tuesday.

"He's a class act," Milligan said of Simington. "He rides everything to the wire, whether 50-1 or 9-5, and he gets more mad than I do whenever we get beat. He's very competitive."

Simington, 46, said Ronald Ardoin, a former jockey who has been his agent for the past three years, has played a key role in his title bid at Louisiana Downs.

"Working with Ronald has made my job easier," Simington said.

From here, he and Ardoin will head to the Delta Downs meet that opens Oct. 14.

"We're going to try to see if we can't keep on where we left off here," said Ardoin.
Mary Rampellini/Daily Racing Form
Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Inside Track: 3,000 and Counting

 Maybe that’s why success tasted even sweeter for Parker Aug. 17 when he stood in the Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort winner’s circle aboard Wildcat Cat after collecting his 3,000th career victory, a milestone the 38-year-old jockey would have never dreamed of 20 years ago.

“It meant a lot. I never thought I’d be riding this long, let alone have that many wins,” Parker said. “It was a great night.”

Parker may be a relatively obscure name for some Thoroughbred racing fans, but only to those who do not regularly look at the national jockey standings. Parker, who is based at Mountaineer, ended 2008 as the nation’s second leading rider with 333 wins and as of Sept. 24, was tied for third this year with 223 this season. Not bad for a guy who had to overcome height, skin color, and a lack of opportunity due to his father’s position in racing.

“I’ve always had people tell me I couldn’t ride for one reason or another. That just gave me more motivation to succeed,” Parker said.

Parker grew up in Cincinnati, where he learned about horses from his father, Daryl, who was a groom and an exercise rider for many years. By age 9 Parker knew he wanted to ride horses for a living, but as he got older, his first major obstacle began to surface.

“I was always a tall kid and by the time I was 16, I was about 5-foot-10,” Parker said. “I was only about 113 pounds—I was skinny—but people started telling me I was too tall to be a jockey.”

Parker did not pay attention. He picked up his first mount in 1988 while still in high school and decided shortly thereafter he still wanted to make riding his career—height issues or not.

After graduating high school, Parker decided to make nearby Thistledown his base, but there was another problem: His father was a steward there.

“Management let him ride a few races there, which is where he got his first win, but we understood he couldn’t stay. It was too much of a conflict,” said Daryl Parker, who became the first African-American steward in Thoroughbred racing in 1986 and is currently a steward at Pinnacle Race Course in Michigan. “I told DeShawn, it was going to be either my job or his.”

With that, DeShawn Parker hit the road, first to Detroit Race Course and Turfway Park for brief stints and then on to Mountaineer. Because of his height and inexperience, it took him a while to pick up regular mounts. Parker was also one of the few African-American riders in the country.

“My dad and some of the black riders helped break a lot of the barriers for me,” said Parker, who credits the late trainer Oscar Dishman as being a big influence on his career. “I didn’t encounter any racism at the track and for the most part people were very good to me, but it was still tough. You feel a little bit like an outsider at first. It took me a while to get mounts.”

Parker’s skill and superb work ethic gradually helped overcome his three obstacles, and by the early part of this decade, he was winning riding titles at Mountaineer. In the summer of 2005, after surpassing the 2,000-win mark, it is believed that he became the all-time winningest African-American rider.

“I’ve very proud of all that I have accomplished, especially with all I had going against me,” said Parker, who is married with two children and lives near East Liverpool, Ohio. “I still have a lot of goals left though. I want to ride in the Derby and Breeders’ Cup and break in with some bigger outfits. I went to Oaklawn last year and plan on going again for their next meet.” by Jason Shandler/The Blood-Horse

Monday, September 28, 2009

Three Jockeys From Same Family Compete

 Jockeys Tony McNeil, the veteran of the trio of family members, will face both of his jockey sons in Bryan McNeil and apprentice Erik McNeil in the third race on the Sept. 28 card.
Tony, a Remington Park regular in the 1980s and 1990s, returned to the saddle a couple of years ago, riding almost exclusively for trainer and longtime friend Cash Asmussen. His sons began their careers earlier this decade and have become fixtures in Oklahoma City over the last two years.
The third race is a $7,500 claiming event for non-winners of two career races, going 6-1/2 furlongs. The apprentice, Erik McNeil, is on Nun Like Me, who is 9-2 in the morning-line odds. Tony McNeil, riding for Cash Asmussen, has the mount on Stand Fast at 20-1 morning-line odds with Bryan aboard Eleven Gage, who will begin the wagering at 30-1 odds.
While a father riding in the same race with a jockey son has happened in the past, facing two sons at once is not an everyday occurrence.
The first of nine races on the Remington Park Monday card begins at 6:30 p.m.
The Blood-Horse
Thursday, September 24, 2009

Garrett Gomez Jockey of the Week

Ventura, the first filly to ever win the race, accounted for $562,440 of Gomez’s $832,748 in earnings during the period. Gomez also captured the Sunday Silence Stakes at Louisiana Downs aboard William’s Kitten on Friday.

Gomez’s victory in the Woodbine Mile was his seventh Grade 1 triumph of the year and

most lucrative win to date in 2009. Gomez, 37, is among North America’s elite

jockeys. During his career, Gomez has won four Breeders’ Cup races, taking the Bill Shoemaker Award as top jockey at the Breeders’ Cup World Championships in 2005 and ’07. He also won the Eclipse Award as outstanding jockey in 2007 and

’08. Gomez ranks third among all North American-based jockeys by purse earnings for the year through Tuesday with $11,339,638.  Thoroughbred Times TODAY

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Thompson scores 3,000th career victory

Thompson, 45, has been a regular competitor at Suffolk Downs and throughout New England since shifting his tack to the U.S. from his native Jamaica in 1987. He earned most outstanding jockey honors in the region in 2004, ’05, and ‘08. “To reach 3,000 means a lot, and it means a lot to do it at Suffolk Downs,” Thompson said. “All of the people here have helped me get here. I’ve been riding with them since 1987, and it is like one big family here.”

Through Monday, Thompson also has 2,925 second- and 2,840 third-place finishes from 20,402 starters that have earned $27,255,862. Thompson captured his fourth Suffolk Downs riding title in five years in 2008 and currently is in second place in the jockey standings with 68 wins. “My body still feels good,” Thompson said. “I got on 14 horses this morning.” His biggest stakes victory came aboard locally based longshot

King Roller in the 2000 James B. Moseley Breeders’ Cup Handicap on the Massachusetts undercard.   Thoroughbred Times TODAY

Monday, September 21, 2009

Castleton Lyons Donates to PDJF

Shane Ryan, president of the Lexington farm, decided on the morning of the race to make the contribution if Gio Ponti won the Arlington Million. Ryan had just read a newspaper story about jockey Rene Douglas, who was paralyzed from the waist down in an accident on May 23 at Arlington Park. “I think he’s very conscious of the human side of the business,” said Stuart Fitzgibbon, commercial manager of Castleton Lyons.

“Fortunately, the horse won, and we’re delighted to hand over the check. “The fund does a lot of work, and there have been a lot of accidents this year, unfortunately. There is a need for people, if they can, to step up to the plate and try to help these guys. The jockeys risk their lives every day for us. It’s a very, very worthy fund.”
Jockey Jon Court, retired Racing Hall of Fame rider Chris McCarron, and disabled former jockey Gary Birzer represented the fund in the check presentation on Friday afternoon at Castleton Lyons. Court is the vice president of the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund, which several industry organizations formed in May 2006. “We’re incredibly grateful and appreciative,” Court said. “Every year we lose a rider to death from an injury—approximately one rider a year. There are others who are cast to the side and have their career come to an abrupt end because of a catastrophic injury and aren’t really accounted for. Over the years, they’ve been basically forgotten. “We’ve made enormous progress in increasing the benefits and the quality of the life of some these riders who have suffered these catastrophic injuries."
Jeff Lowe/Thoroughbred Times TODAY
Thursday, September 17, 2009

Racing with danger

But following devastating injuries at the track this year to jockeys Rene Douglas and Michael Straight, some are wondering whether the synthetic surface makes for a rougher landing.

"The jockeys' concern was that the surface wasn't tested for humans when they fall on it," said Jerry LaSala, a rider as well as the local representative and national treasurer of The Jockeys' Guild.

"They're not scared to ride. They're scared if they fall. They're wondering if they're going to be the next Rene Douglas or Michael Straight. ... Two guys in four months [on the synthetic Polytrack surface], that's a scary feeling."

Arlington Park President Roy Arnold shared the concern for injured jockeys but said racing is a dangerous sport no matter what surface the horses run on.

"Even if you fall on the most forgiving surface, you may lose your life," he said.

Pointing to the decline in injuries to horses since the synthetic track was installed, Arnold said the best way to keep riders safe is to keep their mounts safe.

In 2006, 22 horses were euthanized after injuries at Arlington Park. After the Polytrack surface was installed the following year, there were 14 "fatal breakdowns" involving injuries on the synthetic surface; two others took place on Arlington's turf track, according to the Illinois Racing Board.

In 2008, 12 fatal breakdowns were reported on the synthetic track, four on turf. So far this year, with races ending on Sept. 27, 14 breakdowns have occurred on the synthetic track and none on the turf.

Arnold and others in the industry say that riding thoroughbred racehorses 12 months a year is akin to playing Russian roulette. Sooner or later a horse, which weighs more than 1,000 pounds, will go down while traveling in close quarters.

"If a human body comes off a horse at 35 m.p.h., what as a track do you want me to do to prevent injury?" Arnold said. "The way to make jockeys safer is reduce the threat of injury to the horse."

Six-time Arlington jockey champion Rene Douglas went down May 23 when Born to Be, his mount in the Arlington Matron Handicap, was bumped and clipped heels while emerging from the stretch turn. Douglas landed on the Polytrack surface, and the horse fell on top of him.

Late that night, Douglas underwent seven hours of spinal surgery; his injuries have left him paralyzed.

On Aug. 26, the second catastrophic fall occurred. Straight, 23, was riding I'm No Gentleman when the gelding appeared to clip the heels of another horse and went down. Straight had a flexible rod inserted in his spine but remains paralyzed.

Straight's identical twin brother and fellow jockey, Matthew, traveled from Kentucky's Ellis Park this month to provide support.

"Mike is completely off sedatives," his brother said. "He's stable and hanging in there. It's going to be a long road to recovery, but with the continued thoughts and prayers for our family we'll get through. Once he is able to communicate, it will make everything better." Jockeys at every track in the nation were asked by the Jockeys' Guild to donate one mount fee for Michael Straight. An Arlington autograph session on Sept. 5 raised $5,000 to help defray medical expenses. A few trainers and owners made private donations.

"Mike going down is kind of a reality check, but I've wanted [ride horses for a living] for so long," Matthew Straight said. "We all know what we've signed up for. We all know the risk. Unfortunately, one of the worst things that could happen to a jockey happened to my brother."

The jury is still out on the safety question, because artificial surfaces such as the one at Arlington are so new, experts say. They have been installed in Kentucky, at Keeneland and Turfway Park; in Southern California, at Santa Anita, Hollywood Park and Del Mar; and at a few other tracks.

Data released in 2008 from 2,235 injury reports showed virtually no difference in the fatality rates for horses racing on synthetic surfaces compared with conventional dirt. The information was presented at a safety summit at Keeneland.

Among 61 permanently disabled jockeys were Ron Turcotte, who rode Secretariat to the Triple Crown in 1973, and Jackie Fires, younger brother of the retired Hall of Fame jockey Earlie Fires, who is Arlington's all-time leading rider.

At that time, none of the permanently disabled had been injured on synthetic surfaces, officials said.

"I rode in more than 10,000 races [and won 1,792 before retiring because of chronic knee problems] and never broke a bone in my body," said Wayne Catalano, who is on his way to his seventh Arlington training title in the last eight years.

"It's just a matter of how you fall. I've seen kids have horrible falls and walk away. The way [Douglas and Michael Straight] went down, I think there would have been problems on any surface."

In Catalano's opinion, a wet, slippery dirt track that is thawing out is the most dangerous surface.

"I was leery of those kind of tracks," he said. "You hit the bottom, and it's frozen, and there's ice underneath. You don't have that at Arlington because they race in the summer."

Catalano said he believes the most perilous part of the race is the start.

"You have a starting gate at every racetrack -- whether it's Polytrack, turf, dirt or slop -- and it's one of the most dangerous spots you can be in. You've got the steel gate, those animals are in there, and you have a little spot. When you get in there, you want out."

The Jockeys' Guild's national manager, Terry Meyocks, said there were concerns because of the injuries to Douglas and Straight, but he said it is too early to reach conclusions about synthetic surfaces.

Meyocks praised the Arlington Park management team. "The people at Arlington Park always have tried to do the right thing with regard to the safety of the horse and the rider," he said.

Another staunch supporter of Arlington is Earlie Fires, who retired last year.

"I loved riding on it," he said, "but I didn't fall on it."

Freelance reporter Neil Milbert contributed to this report.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Alan Garcia Jockey of the Week

The 24-year-old native of Peru captured the $300,000 Ruffian Handicap (G1) on Saturday aboard Swift Temper and then returned on Sunday to take the $150,000 Bowling Green Handicap with Grand Couturier (GB). He finished the period with five victories and $385,204 in purse earnings.
Garcia began his ascent through the jockey ranks last year and has continued his climb this season with four Grade 1 victories. In addition to the Ruffian, he also won the Donn Handicap (G1) on Albertus Maximus, the Shadwell Metropolitan Handicap (G1) on Bribon (Fr), and the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) aboard Funny Moon. Through Tuesday, Garcia ranked eighth among North Americabased jockeys by purse earnings with $8,513,690.
In 2007, Garcia picked up his first win at the top level aboard Lahudood (GB) in the Flower Bowl Invitational Stakes (G1) and rode the season’s eventual champion turf female to a victory at 11.70-to-1 odds in the Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf (G1) at Monmouth Park.

He scored an even bigger upset in 2008, when he rode Da’ Tara to victory in the Belmont Stakes (G1) at odds of 38.50-to-1, spoiling the Triple Crown hopes of dual classic winner Big Brown.Thoroughbred Times TODAY

Monday, September 14, 2009

Former jockey Boulanger scores first win as trainer

Boulanger took out his trainer’s license in 2007, but he was also involved in a farm accident in fall 2008 that delayed his start. Tinkerbuck dueled for the early lead under Luis Saez and shook free to a two-length victory in the seven-furlong claiming race. Boulanger won 3,104 races, including 23 graded stakes, as a jockey. He had three runner-up finishes with 17 previous starters prior to his breakthrough win as a trainer.
Thoroughbred Times TODAY
Thursday, September 10, 2009

Eddie Castro Jockey of the Week

Castro, 34, won on eight of 33 mounts that earned $861,795 to surpass Racing Hall of

Fame rider Mike Smith. Castro began riding in North America in 2003 after learning to ride in his native Panama. He was the Eclipse Award-winning apprentice jockey that year and has since gone on to win 1,656 races from 9,403 mounts who have earned $52,035,479 through Wednesday. Gone Astray is one of two seven-figure scores for Castro, his first coming when he guided Miesque’s Approval to an upset victory in the

$2-million NetJets Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) in 2006 at Churchill Downs. Castro rides summers at Monmouth Park and before last year was a regular in South Florida during the winter, but he rode at Aqueduct during the 2008-’09 winter meet. He currently ranks second in the Monmouth jockey standings and is one of only seven riders this year

with 160 or more wins and more than $6-million in purse earnings.
Thoroughbred Times TODAY
Tuesday, September 08, 2009


 “I came up here the other day to be by my brother’s side, so I wanted to get back in the saddle and see how I felt,” said Matthew Straight.  “I’m riding a horse that Mike has ridden the past four times and recently won on. Hopefully, I can get a winner for him.”

 Matthew has recently started working horses in the morning at Arlington Park and plans to ride here for the remainder of the meet, which ends Sept. 27

 “Once you get out there and get on the horses, you kind of clear your mind of everything,” Matthew said this morning at the track’s Breakfast at Arlington program. “Obviously, there were a few butterflies at first, and I’m sure there will be today, but it’s what I want to do. It’s what me and my brother both love to do. We all know what we are signing up for when we start riding.”

 More Than Able, sent off at odds of 5-1, was trailing the field early in the nine-horse contest. The More Than Ready gelding rallied when asked by Straight at the top of stretch and closed to finish third.

 “There wasn’t a lot of pace in the race but he came running when I asked him,” he said after the race.  “We just couldn’t get the job done for Mike.”

 The connections of More Than Able indicated they would donate a portion of the horse’s earnings to a fund established to help the Straight Family defray medical costs for Michael.

 The track’s jockeys all donated a losing mount fee to the fund and participated in a day-long autograph signing session that earned $5,000 for the fund.  Arlington Park Commmunications Department




Friday, September 04, 2009

Blood Drive for Justin Vitek Sunday

The Midwest-based rider is being treated in Houston. He competed at Turfway Park earlier this year while the cancer was in remission.

Friday, September 04, 2009


 “My family wants to thank the Jockeys’ Guild and our fellow riders for their generosity and support for Mike as he continues to recover from his injuries.”

 Note: Matthew is named to ride SMILE Stable’s More Than Able in Saturday’s 4th race at Arlington Park, a 1 1/16-mile turf race.  The Jan Ely-trained horse had been ridden by Michael in his previous four starts, including a victory on June 7.

 “With the national fundraising effort for Mike taking place that day, I really wanted to be able to be part of it and ride a horse.  This horse is one that Mike had been riding and won on.  It would really be great to win one for Mike that day.”


Note:  Matthew will continue to issue updates on Michael’s condition as appropriate.


Background: Apprentice jockey Michael Straight was injured and taken to Lutheran General Hospital following an incident in the eighth race Aug. 26 at Arlington Park.   Straight, 23, was riding Im No Genetleman in the mile and a sixteenth race when his mount appeared to have clipped heels with another horse in the vicinity of the quarter pole and the rider fell to the track.

Thursday, September 03, 2009


Straight was critically injured in a race at Arlington Park on August 26.

 Jockeys across the nation are being asked to donate one mount fee Saturday to the Don MacBeth Memorial Fund earmarked for Michael Straight to help defray costs of his long-term needs.  They will also be riding with two patches on their boots, one in honor of Michael Straight and the other paying tribute to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (PDJF) which currently aids 60 permanently disabled jockeys.

Straight, a native of East Greenbush, New York, graduated from Chris McCarron’s North American Racing Academy in 2008 and has 39 winners from 372 races.

 “We appreciate the generosity of the jockeys, racetracks and fans throughout the country,” said John Velazquez, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Jockeys’ Guild.  “We think it is important that those who love the sport of racing show support for Michael at this critical time.  We are in his corner.

 “As jockeys, we want to do our part for those in racing that have been less fortunate,” said jockey Robby Albarado, Member of the Board of Directors of the Jockeys’ Guild.

 “The racing industry needs to come together to take care of our own, be they jockeys, exercise riders, grooms or hotwalkers.  All those involved in racing,” jockey Mike Smith, a member of the Jockeys’ Guild Senate, added. 

 “These charities are critical to the industry and the Jockeys’ Guild is donating $7,000 to the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance to help make the sport safer for all involved, both human and equine,” said Terry Meyocks, National Manager of the Jockeys’ Guild.  “The industry will never be strong if we can’t provide for those in the industry that need help as a result of life-changing events.  Racing seems to be facing this problem now more than ever before and we need to continue on that path.”


The NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance, formed last October with the goal of establishing national uniform standards in the areas of safety and integrity, includes 55 racetracks in North America and every major national horsemen’s organization. Alliance certification standards cover five broad areas: injury reporting and prevention; creating a safer racing environment; aftercare and transition of retired racehorses; uniform medication, testing and penalties; and safety research.

            “The Jockey’s Guild’s generous contribution will help the Alliance’s ongoing work on a number of fronts, including its commitment to the health and safety of jockeys,” said Mike Ziegler, Executive Director of the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance. “This is a wonderful prelude to the Alliance’s national fundraising days, which will take place at racetracks across North America during the Labor Day weekend.” 

            While contributions for Michael Straight are to be directed to the MacBeth Fund, permanently disabled jockeys depend on the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (PDJF) for assistance.

  “Our thoughts and prayers are with Michael and his family,” said Nancy LaSala, Executive Director of the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund.  “This sport has its inherent risks and we ask that you keep all of those who have met with misfortune in your thoughts.”

 Contributions to the Don MacBeth Memorial Jockeys Fund earmarked for Michael Straight should be sent to P.O. Box 18470, Encino, CA 91416.  For more information on the MacBeth Memorial Jockey Fund, please visit

Donations to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund should be sent to P.O.Box 803, Elmhurst, IL 60126 or information and online contributions can be made at

 Contact:  Jockeys’ Guild, Inc.

              (859) 305-0606

Wednesday, September 02, 2009


 “Mike had a minor procedure this morning to remove a little air build-up in his lungs, which the doctors tell me is common for people on a ventilator.  That procedure was successful.

 “He had an MRI yesterday and the results came back as expected – that there is a head injury and a spinal injury.  The doctors say the head injury will heal on its own in time.

 “He still has no feeling in his lower body but until the swelling around the spine goes down, we are keeping positive thoughts.

 “He is responding to commands and shakes his head “Yes” and “No” when responding to questions and holding up fingers when asked.”

 Arlington Park Communications Department

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The Fallen

--At Arlington Park, on Aug. 26, apprentice jockey Michael Straight, 23, fractured four vertabrae in a one-horse crash. He underwent surgery to stabilize the damage. A prognosis is pending.

--At Presque Isle Downs, on Aug. 28, former Eclipse Award winning apprentice Dale Beckner, 37, suffered multiple facial fractures when his mount broke down and he was kicked by a trailing horse.

--That same afternoon at Del Mar, Jordan Springer, 31, appeared to have a bottom-of-the-barrel claiming race won aboard Engine Sixty Nine and was nursing him to the wire when she was caught in the final jump to lose by a nose.

--The next day at Saratoga, Alan Garcia, 23, was disqualified from victory in the Grade 1 King's Bishop Stakes for allowing his mount, Vineyard Haven, to drift right from a left-handed whip and interfere with Capt. Candyman Can.

Straight is a graduate of Chris McCarron's North American Riding Academy in Lexington. When he heard of the accident, McCarron headed north to be at Straight's side.

"He's not regained consciousness yet, but that's not unusual, since they had him in an induced coma," McCarron said Monday morning before returning to his teaching duties. "They cut back on that medication early Sunday morning, and now they let him slowly wake up on his own. They're pretty confident from all indications that there's no evidence of brain damage. He's exhibited some response with his hands, but they won't be able to do any tests with his lower extremities until he awakens."

It has been reported that Straight's horse collapsed and died from some kind of cardiac event, while Beckner's had to be euthanized.

"Before a student even enrolls with us, when they go through the interview process, I drill into their head the fact that they will get hurt," McCarron said. "It's not a matter of if, it's a question of when. Jackie Davis, another of my students, got very lucky at Monmouth two Sundays ago when she got dropped about 50 yards out of the gate and landed right on her face. She spent two nights in the hospital and went back to riding Wednesday, but her back was bothering her so she decided to take a week off."

Jackie Davis, 22, is the daughter of former top New York rider Robbie Davis. It was Robbie's horse who trampled Mike Venezia to death at Belmont Park in 1988. (Everyone needs to read Bill Nack's Sports Illustrated story about Robbie Davis once, but only once:

If Beckner's condition sounds familiar, it's because Rafael Bejarano just returned from facial fractures suffered on July 22 at Del Mar. After extensive surgery, Bejarano was back to work last Friday and rode three winners over the weekend.

Beckner and Straight paid the price of their chosen profession. The contract is simple--for a chance at a good living you will be required from time to time to surrender health and the use of certain body parts. In the case of Springer and Garcia, though, the only damage done was to their pride...and the pocketbooks of those who backed their horses.

Springer makes her living as an exercise rider. She rides races when she can, and so far she has won 79, officially. Number 80 looked to be in the bag last Friday, but she did nothing to overtly enhance the chances of Engine Sixty Nine as the wire approached, and hustlin' Joe Talamo caught her on the line.

Springer confessed she "messed up." The stewards agreed and gave her a 10-day suspension for an unsatisfactory ride. Essentially, she was cited for poor public relations, because it looked very bad, especially to those who took 13-1 on her horse. Stewards require jockeys to make every effort to win a race when a horse is in contention. They feel the wagering public is owed nothing less. At the same time, jockeys are told they can't hit the horse too much with the whip, because this does not look good either.

The rational mind might wonder at the evident contradiction. Try...but don't try too hard, or in the wrong way. In the heat of the battle, Alan Garcia tried too hard to win the King's Bishop when it was clear Vineyard Haven was getting tired. Dangerous contact was made--it even appeared legs got tangled--as Garcia forced Javier Castellano to ride for survival instead of the win. There are not many riders who would come to Garcia's defense, and he was hit with a seven-day suspension. Springer, on the other hand, got sympathetic comments from several veterans in the Del Mar room, who saw her trying to keep a tired horse afloat just long enough, and missing by a nose. The stewards want her to work on her skill set and take these next 10 racing days to think about it before she rides in the afternoon again. Or, as Danny Sorenson put it, "She needs to learn how to hit the brake pedal and the accelerator at the same time."


How about some good news? Tyler Baze vows he will be back in action at Del Mar this Friday after that freaky fall from a first-time starter on Aug. 22 snapped the little finger of his left hand like a fresh green bean. (It was originally reported here as his right hand...50-50 chance and I blew it.) Wearing a splint for support, Baze is able to flex the joint nearest the break, which means the muscles and ligaments escaped serious damage.


"I thought about cutting it off, if I couldn't get back right away," Baze said over the weekend. "Sew it up, let it heal a little, and tape it up. No big deal. But my wife didn't like that idea. So I'm doing red light laser therapy to speed up the healing. It's supposed to work."

A big weekend awaits Baze, beginning on Friday with the fast filly Carlsbad in the $200,000 Rancho Bernardo Handicap, and then on Sunday with Battle of Hastings in the $350,000 Del Mar Derby and Informed in the $1 million Pacific Classic. The finger is on notice.

Posted by Jay Hovdey on August 31, 2009 | Permalink

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Safety Committee Reviews New Vests, Helmets & Whips

Chaired by CHRB Commissioner Bo Derek, the Safety Committee recently was created by CHRB Chairman John Harris specifically to review recommended standards and proposals and to develop regulatory language for amendments to CHRB rules. Jockeys and exercise riders, who would be the principal beneficiaries of any changes, will be attending the meeting at the Surfside Race Place (Del Mar simulcasting facility) to participate in the discussion, beginning at 10:30 a.m.

While moving forward to a new generation of safety equipment, the Safety Committee will take a moment Friday to acknowledge the contributions of John Alessio for developing the first “Caliente” safety helmet back in the 1950s, which is credited with preventing serious injuries to riders over the decades. John Alessio’s son, Dominic “Bud” Alessio, will accept a resolution on behalf of the family.

Proposals to update standards and amend regulations were brought to the full Board last month by representatives of the Jockeys’ Guild and the California Horsemen’s Safety Alliance, who will participate Friday along with manufacturers of safety equipment. The new helmets and vests are constructed  to provide better protection to riders. The discussion will include consideration of laboratory standards that all such equipment would be required to meet.

 The new whips have been described as being “kinder” to horses. In a recent action, the full Board waived a portion of the existing rule to allow for the use of these kinder whips. Various California racing associations and fairs either already have or are considering house rules to require the use of these “kinder” whips in their races. A CHRB regulatory amendment would go further by mandating the use of such whips in all races.  CHRB Release


Tuesday, September 01, 2009


 Fairplex has employed paramedics to work both in the morning and during racing.  It will also have its lighting poles inside the inner rail padded for safety and now has a house rule requiring equine friendly riding crops only to be used during the meet.  Fairplex has purchased 20 of the new riding crops for the jockeys’ use during the upcoming meet
     The new riding crops conform to the Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI) Model Rules while the padded poles exceed the standards of the same group, which require padding inside 10 feet of the rail.
“The light poles are far enough from the inner rail that we do not have to pad them according to the ARCI Model Rules, but we elected to pad them for enhanced safety,” said Kim Lloyd, Fairplex Park equine manager.  “We have paramedics on duty now during training hours and they will also be in place during the races run at the meet.  Our mission is to provide top-class racing in an environment that is as safe as possible for both people and horses.”

“We appreciate Kim Lloyd and Fairplex management working with the jockeys and the Jockeys’ Guild to improve safety and emergency care,” said Darrell Haire, the Guild’s regional manager.  “Fairplex has gone beyond the minimum of the Model Rules and, importantly, is upgrading the medical care at the most important time, immediately after an injury has occurred.  In addition to these modifications, Fairplex has upgraded the jockeys’ rooms during the past few years to the point that they are both cleaner and more accommodating than ever before for both male and female jockeys.” 

 “The changes Fairplex is making are important to all involved,” said Terry Meyocks, national manager of the Jockeys’ Guild.  “This doesn’t just benefit the jockeys.  The paramedics will also benefit exercise riders as well anyone else who might get injured on the track in the morning.  Fairplex deserves a lot of credit for stepping up and implementing these initiatives.  Safety has become a major issue for both humans and horses as evidenced by the work of the NTRA Safety Alliance.  Fairplex and Del Mar have been in the forefront of tracks responding to this need for improved safety.”




Contact:          Jockeys’ Guild, Inc.

                        (859) 305-0606


                        Fairplex Park

                        (909) 865-4263



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