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Thursday, September 30, 2010


 In Race 1, Dominguez guided favored Pretty B ($5.80) to a 3 ¼-length victory in an off-the-turf claiming contest to start the afternoon, then completed his sweep of the early Pick 3 aboard second choices Keechi Bullet ($7.50) and Wishful Tomcat ($7.20) in Races 2 and 3.


Without a mount in Race 4, Dominguez picked up where he’d left off, piloting favored That’s Rich ($5.30) to a gate-to-wire score in the day’s fifth race.


Dominguez, who won nine consecutive riding titles on the NYRA circuit before having his streak snapped by John Velazquez this summer in Saratoga, has 23 victories through the close of racing at Belmont on Wednesday. Through September 28, Dominguez led the nation in wins with 271 victories and $11,614,310 in purse earnings. NYRA Communications Department



Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Denyse Pendanx Cruguet Dies

 Cruguet's health had been in decline ever since suffering a debilitating stroke in 2003.

In the 1960s, the French-born Cruguet was among the earliest women to exercise horses on the racetrack in Europe, making headlines for her efforts. Eventually, she was one of the first women with her own training stable in France.

She met her future husband when he rode one of her troublesome horses to victory. “She thought I was a genius, and that’s how we got together,” said Jean Cruguet, who won the 1977 Triple Crown on Seattle Slew. To further his riding, they left France for the United States in 1965 and married in Florida.

In addition to her husband, Denyse Cruguet is survived by a daughter, Leslie, and a granddaughter.
A memorial service will be held at Keeneland in the Clubhouse Room on Friday, Oct. 1, at 3 p.m. Speakers include former jockey Pat Day.
The family has asked that expressions of sympathy be made to the Permanently Disabled Jockey Fund or to Old Friends, the Thoroughbred Retirement Facility near Georgetown, Ky.  The Blood-Horse

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Equibase Introduces Racing Yearbook, Stats Central

 The web version of the Racing Yearbook, like the app, offers video replays (provided by Post Time Technologies) and results of all graded stakes races and ungraded prep races for the Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup World Championships.

 “In the month since its release, the Racing Yearbook app for the iPhone has become the highest ranking horse racing app in the USA and is consistently ranked in the top 10% of all sports apps,” said Marzelli. “With the launch of the Racing Yearbook on we are significantly broadening our reach so that anyone with a computer can follow the stars of our sport from one central location.”

 In addition to the Racing Yearbook, now includes a Stats Central section that compiles expanded horse, jockey and trainer statistical profiles in one central location. Profiles are searchable and provide current year and career stats as well current entry and result information for those with recent activity.

 Complementing the statistical profiles are expanded North American racing leaders lists that now include all horses, jockeys, trainers and owners annually back to the year 2000. The lists can be sorted and feature a “quick find” search tool. Similar enhancements have been made to track-specific statistics as well.

 Equibase Company is a partnership between The Jockey Club and the Thoroughbred Racing Associations of North America and serves as the Thoroughbred industry’s official database. Its website,, features a comprehensive menu of free entries, results and race charts as well as premium handicapping products from past performances to selections for handicappers of every skill level. The company also serves the rapidly growing mobile web market through mobile, which was recently optimized for today’s touch phones, and through the Equibase Racing Yearbook application available for free within the iTunes Store.



Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Zia community honors fallen jockey

Mike Kelley, Villa's agent, said the jockey colony gathered at the winner's circle for a prayer. The first race was run in silence in Villa's memory.

"It was a beautiful service," Kelley said. "Everybody was there. It's hard to believe how quickly people can come together."
Villa died from injuries sustained in Saturday's seventh race, a trial for the Hobbs America Quarter Horse Futurity. His mount, Separate Money, ran second then broke down just after the wire and threw Villa to the ground. Villa was hit by an oncoming horse and died immediately from a broken neck, according to his mother-in-law, Debi Ferguson.

"When he went off the horse, he was okay," she said. "He was crawling from his own mount, and another horse went over the top of him. The horse grazed his helmet, and knocked it off, and of course, when it knocked it off, the helmet being attached by the chin strap, his neck [was] broken."

Ferguson said Villa was born in Tucson, Ariz. She noted he rode in a number of different states in his career, including Arizona, where he was a multiple title winner, California, Idaho, Kentucky, and New Mexico.

"He rode all over," she said. "He was riding when he was 16."

Villa is survived by his wife, Krystal, and 6-year-old twins, Olivia and Garrett. An account to help the family with expenses is being set up through Compass Bank. Another fund has been set up for Villa's family through the Ruidoso Downs Racetrack Chaplaincy.

Ferguson said the funeral service for Villa will be held at 1 p.m. Oct. 6 in Phoenix, at the Deer Valley LDS Stake Center at 2939 W. Rose Garden Lane. The night before, a viewing will start at 7 p.m. at the Shadow Mountain Mortuary at 2350 East Greenway Rd., in Phoenix.

Villa won 1,726 races from 13,843 starts in his career, for mount earnings of $17,360,253. Of his wins, 1,076 were with Thoroughbreds, and the rest came aboard Quarter Horses and other breeds. He was the fifth-leading rider last year at Zia Park and second in the Thoroughbred standings this past summer at Ruidoso Downs.

Among his biggest wins were the Grade 1 Ruidoso Quarter Horse Derby in 2009 with eventual champion Time For a Cigar.

"We got along so good," said Kelley. "He was so easy to work for because he was a workaholic. He made my job easy."

Villa is the fourth jockey to be killed in a track-related accident nationally since 2006, according to statistics from the Jockeys' Guild. Mark Pace was the last rider to die, in an Oct. 18, 2009, spill at Blue Ribbon Downs in Oklahoma. Before him, Juan Campos was killed on Aug. 23, 2008, at the Downs at Albuquerque in New Mexico, and Sam Thompson on Dec. 20, 2008, at Los Alamitos in California. Mary Rampellini/Daily Racing Form

Monday, September 27, 2010

Fund Set Up for Family of Late Jockey Villa

 Villa is survived by his wife Krystal, 33, and twins Olivia and Garrett, 6.

The fund is being coordinated through the Ruidoso Downs Race Track chaplaincy. Checks should be made out to "Race Track Chapel" and sent to the Ruidoso Downs Race Track Chapel, P.O. Box 449, Ruidoso Downs, New Mexico 88346. Please specify "Mark Villa family" in the memo line on the check.

Villa was a veteran on the New Mexico circuit. His most important victory came in 2009 when he won the grade I Ruidoso Derby for Quarter Horses aboard champion Time For A Cigar. He was also an important Thoroughbred jockey and had 42 career stakes wins.

Villa won a total of 1,726 races during a career that began in 1983. He was the second leading Thoroughbred jockey at Ruidoso Downs in 2010 and was the fifth leading all-breed jockey at Zia Park in 2009. Blood-Horse

Mike Villa on Ducky Drake in the KLAQ Handicap.
Photo: Coady Photography
Thursday, September 23, 2010


 The Seminar, sponsored by Keeneland and Pfizer Animal Health, will feature expert speakers from across the country who will discuss health and safety topics targeted specifically to trainers, aftercare organizations, track medical directors, racing officials, farriers and veterinarians. Attendance at the seminar will help satisfy continuing education requirements for racetracks as mandated by the Alliance’s Code of Standards.

 One portion of the Seminar will focus on continuing education for trainers. Topics to be covered will include exercise protocol for the young horse; managing post-exercise body temperature, musculoskeletal injuries; nutrition; knowing when to retire a racehorse; importance of voluntary injury reporting; dealing with the media; the importance of pre-race examinations; and working with stewards. Speakers will include: Dr. Reid McLellan, Executive Director, Groom Elite Program; Randal Raub, Director of Horse Business Development, Purina Mills, LLC; Anna Ford, New Vocations; Dr. Jeffery Berk, Ocala Equine Hospital; Dr. Mary Scollay, Equine Medical Director, Kentucky Horse Racing Commission; Stan Bowker, Chairman, Racing Officials Accreditation Program; Dr. Bryce Peckham, Chief Veterinarian, Kentucky Horse Racing Commission; and Eric Wing, Senior Director of Media Relations, NTRA.

 Another segment will center on the role of racetrack medical directors. This portion of the Seminar will be led by Dr. Barry Schumer of Keeneland.

 D.G. Van Clief, Jr., the former President and CEO of Breeders’ Cup, Ltd., and the NTRA, will lead a session on Thoroughbred aftercare. Topics to be covered include: rehabilitation of horses off the racetrack; infectious disease management; nutrition for mistreated and geriatric horses; veterinary care for the geriatric horse; the Unwanted Horse Coalition; fund raising; marketing the retired racehorse; and best business practices. Speakers will include Dr. Tom Daugherty, DVM; Randal Raub of Purina Mills, LLC; Dr. Rob Holland, Pfizer Animal Health; Ericka Caslin, Unwanted Horse Coalition; Tom Cordova, Cordova Marketing Group; Lynn Reardon, LOPE; Jane Gilbert, ReRun; Anna Ford of New Vocations; Joe Hoffman, Esq., Kelley Drye & Warren LLP; Laura D’Angelo, Esq., Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs; Eric Wing, Senior Director of Media Relations, NTRA; and John Della Volpe, SocialSphere Strategies.

 Cathy O’Meara, Coordinator for the Racing Officials Accreditation Program (ROAP), will lead a session from ROAP that will include four sections: InCompass RTO lists, what they are and how to share them; Paddock Judge—the duties and responsibilities of checking horse equipment to maintain safety; Clerk of Scales—a presentation on the duties and responsibilities of checking jockey equipment to maintain safety by Tim Kelly, ROAP Accredited Steward and NYRA Clerk of Scales; and Starter—a presentation on safety concerns at the gate and the duties and responsibilities of the starter by Bob Duncan, Consultant and retired NYRA starter.

 Mitch Taylor of the Kentucky Horseshoeing School will preside over a segment on hoof care and the foot.  Taylor will discuss the physiology of the hoof, while Dr. James Orsini, Associate Professor of Surgery at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine, will provide an update on laminitis research and Dr. Mick Peterson of the Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory will present on track surfaces and hoof dynamics.

 Finally, Dr. Mary Scollay, the Equine Medical Director for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission will lead a session for veterinarians. Dr. Scollay and Dr. Scot Waterman, Executive Director of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (RMTC) will discuss medication testing protocols; and Scollay will address the issue of environmental contamination.

 For additional information about the NTRA Professional Education seminar, including how to register, contact Casey Hamilton at (859) 422-2627. Discounted hotel rooms for Seminar attendees are being held at the Crowne Plaza in Lexington.



Thursday, September 23, 2010

Injured Rider Martinez Becomes a Father

 Martinez's fiancé, Charlotte Garcia, went into labor Sept. 21 and later gave birth to a five-pound, 14-ounce baby girl named Merari Charlotte, said Dennis Patterson, the 24-year-old rider's agent. The birth took place at Highland General Hospital in Oakland, the same facility where Martinez has been hospitalized since undergoing 11 hours of emergency surgery after he sustained severe injuries in a Sept. 12 fall at Golden Gate Fields.

Speaking by phone Sept. 22, Patterson said Martinez, paralyzed from the waist down, has been transferred from the hospital's intensive care unit to a private room. Martinez, who also received significant brain bruising in the fall, has been more alert in recent days but "he is still not talking a lot," the agent said.

There has been a whirlwind of activity in Martinez's case during the past three days.

Dr. David Seftel, the physician at Golden Gate Fields who is advising the Martinez family, also said Sept. 22 that he has been in contact with Dr. Jorge Paz Rodriguez, the medical director of the Stem Cell Institute of Panama, regarding adult stem-cell therapy for Martinez and is encouraged by the initial response.

He said that a decision should be made in the next day or two on whether Martinez, who is a native of Panama, will be accepted for treatment there. The clinic has also treated jockey Rene Douglas, paralyzed more than year ago in a fall at Arlington Park, although many months had already passed before he began stem cell injections.

"I think that anything we can do to give this young man a chance is well worth taking," Seftel said.

It is generally thought that embryonic stem cell treatment carries a better chance for potential recovery of some motor skills in paralysis cases. Seftel noted that benefits of adult stem-cell injections have been relatively modest. He said that use of adult stem cells in a case as acute as Martinez's would be "groundbreaking," adding, "The sooner you do this, the better his chances."

"There's no theoretical reason why adult stem cells should be less efficacious fundamentally," he said. Scarring of the spinal cord area that was injured, however, is the biggest impediment to success, he said, which is why quick action is needed.

Martinez would have the added advantage of being near to family members who could provide close blood cell and bone marrow matches in the event he required more stem cells than he could produce, the doctor noted.

The change of focus to the Panama clinic came after Martinez was declined as a candidate for embryonic stem cell treatments by Dr. Richard Fessler, a specialist at Northwestern University, due to the severity of the damage to his spine. The rider was to have been transferred to UC San Francisco Medical Center for a high resolution MRI exam Sept. 20, but the move was canceled when the California Division of Workers' Compensation reportedly refused to authorize it.

Seftel said that in order to do the MRI, doctors would have had to remove some of the rods that were placed by surgeons to support Martinez's spine in the original surgery, causing intense pain for the patient. Though disappointed, Seftel understood the reasoning. He called it one of the greatest "clinical conundrums that a clinician can face."

Martinez should also learn soon whether he will be transferred to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, which has a rehabilitation clinic that specializes in spinal cord injuries, Seftel said. An evaluation of the jockey's condition was expected to take place on Sept. 22.

Seftel said he was confident that Martinez is in good enough condition to travel by plane to Panama.

"They have done a superb job," he said of the hospital staff. "He is no longer on IVs (intravenous fluids). He's eating. He is alert, he's talking. He has very little discomfort. The possibility (of going to Panama for treatment) is something the family is very much in favor of."

Martinez has been surrounded by his family, who arrived last week from Panama, his cousin Alex Solis, friends and fellow jockeys since the injury.

"We're all part of a big family at Golden Gate Fields," Seftel said.

Solis, who recently returned to New York for riding engagements this week, made an "unbelievable contribution" in talking to doctors and explaining matters to Martinez's family, Seftel added.

Seftel said Martinez was "very depressed" Sept. 21 and had not yet seen his newborn child. He has not given into his plight, however.

"He's not aware of the details," the doctor said of Martinez's mental state. "But he's a fighter, Clearly, he wants us to do whatever it takes." Blood-Horse

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Albarado Named Jockey of the Week

The victory elevated the 37-year-old Albarado to the top of the list of North American riders by purse earnings for the week ended September 22.

Albarado currently ranks eighth nationally among jockeys by purse earnings for the year with $7,008,287 through Tuesday.

Despite just two Grade 1 wins, Albarado has captured some of North America’s most lucrative races this season, including the $800,000 Sunland Derby (G3) aboard Endorsement at Sunland Park and the $400,000 Red Legend Stakes with Comedero at Charles Town Races.

Albarado was the regular rider of both 2007 and ’08 Horse of the Year Curlin as well as ’04 Horse of the Year Mineshaft.

In addition to his accomplishments on the track, Albarado launched the Robby Albarado Foundation in 2007. The foundation seeks to assist the homeless, socially and economically disadvantaged, and those less fortunate in Louisville. Thoroughbred Times TODAY

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Martinez not a suitable candidate for stem cell therapy

Dr. David Seftel, the physician, said that the neurosurgeons conducting the trial had concluded from Martinez’s medical records that the jockey’s spinal cord had been too severely damaged to consider Martinez for the trial. Seftel and Martinez’s family had hoped that the treatments, which have shown some promise in studies on rats, would be able to mend the rider’s severed spinal cord. Martinez is paralyzed from the waist down.

The family received the news that Martinez would not be admitted to the trial on the same day that Martinez’s fiancé, Charlotte, went into labor and was admitted to Highland General Hospital, where Martinez is currently receiving treatment. The baby was expected to be delivered later on Tuesday, Seftel said.

“It’s a day of extremely mixed emotions,” Seftel said.

Martinez is expected to be transferred late on Wednesday to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, which runs a rehabilitation clinic that specializes in spinal-cord injuries. Seftel and Martinez’s cousin, the rider Alex Solis, are also exploring experimental treatments with adult stem cells, though, in studies, those treatments have not shown to be as promising as the embryonic stem-cell treatments, Seftel said.

“It can help with controlling some involuntary movements, like bowel and bladder control, but unfortunately, they haven’t demonstrated any significant changes in motor strength,” Seftel said.

Martinez has been heavily sedated for most of the time since he suffered the injuries, but he has increasingly become more alert over the past few days.

“Yesterday he ate more than I’ve ever seen a jockey eat,” Seftel said. “He’s awake, he’s alert, and he’s conversational. And, of course, he’s depressed.”

 Daily Racing Form

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Injured jockey improving


Martinez, a 24-year-old who is paralyzed from the waist down, also sustained a head injury, six broken ribs and bleeding in both lungs as the result of a spill Sept. 12 at Golden Gate Fields. He has shown marked improvement in those areas over the past few days.

"He's alert, conversational and eating solid food, and there are no more tubes in him," Golden Gate Fields physician Dr. David Seftel said. "He's physically much more comfortable than he has been."

Martinez had an MRI exam on his spine Saturday at Highland Hospital.

"The radiologist reported that there was some intact cord but because of shadows, they couldn't be sure," Seftel said. "The information from the high-resolution MRI will be supplied to Dr. Richard Fessler at Northwestern University to determine whether Michael will be a candidate or not. We should know by the afternoon (today)."

If he is determined to be a candidate, Martinez would be flown to Chicago for the treatments, which must begin within 14 days of the injury to be effective.

"The clock is ticking," Seftel said. "The last day this can be attempted is Sunday."

Larry Stumes is a freelance writer. E-mail comments to

Monday, September 20, 2010

Experimental procedure may be only hope for paralyzed Panamanian jockey Michael Martinez

In one of the private rooms, 24-year-old Panamanian jockey Michael Martinez rests in a hospital bed. He has been heavily sedated for most of the last week, unable to move his lower extremities, his paralysis the result of a gruesome injury sustained a week ago. He has opened his eyes several times, spoken his name and Saturday displayed good spirits when his parents, Audiel and Maria, pregnant fiancée Charlotte Garcia and cousin Alex Solis, also a jockey, visited him.

Solis says that when Martinez's parents first arrived from Panama Thursday, they were "devastated." Saturday outside Highland, however, they smiled softly, and Garcia joked that her fiancé kept looking at her tummy and "touching it with his hand." Garcia is due to give birth to their daughter Sept. 29. The 22-year-old Garcia says the stress has been overwhelming, but that seeing Martinez and his positive attitude brought some relief to her and Martinez's parents. "I feel much better now," she says in Spanish.

"His spirits are really good. He was trying really hard to pull all his tubes out," says Solis. "He's a little frustrated of laying down. He's 24. Charlotte was laughing because the nurse said, ‘You need to behave.' And Michael made this face like, ‘Whatever.' He wants to get the tubes out and get up."

During the fifth race at Golden Gate Fields race track in Berkeley last Sunday, Martinez was aboard the favorite - 3-year-old filly Fair 'N Warmer - in the nine-horse field. According to track physician Dr. David Seftel - who says he serves as the primary care physician to the jockeys who race at the track - Fair 'N Warmer clipped the heels of another horse before the first turn, and Martinez was thrown from the mount. The filly then tripped and landed on top of Martinez, roughly 1,100 pounds of weight "moving at roughly 35 miles per hour," falling square on Martinez's 107-pound frame."You've got unbelievable forces," says Seftel, one of the first to respond to Martinez after the injury. "The rider went straight into the ground. He had no opportunity to roll. He was planted like a tulip."

The resulting injuries were horrific. Seftel has been in communication with Highland neurosurgeon Federico Castro-Moure, who performed 11 hours of surgery on Martinez. Seftel says he also helped with the pre- and post-operative treatment. "Michael's injuries were a pulverizing, crush injury to the thoracicvertebrae (No.) 5, 6 and 7. Those are the three vertebrae that encase the spinal cord in between the shoulder blades," says Seftel. "He also suffered very significant head trauma, with bleeding into the right side of the brain as well as into some of the brain tissue. He broke six ribs, three on either side. And the breaking of those ribs led to bleeding into both of his lungs." A fund has been set
up at Golden Gate Fields on
Martinez's behalf, to help raise money for his medical expenses.

But the trauma for Martinez doesn't end with his injuries: Seftel and Martinez's agent, Dennis Patterson, are feverishly exploring a controversial cutting-edge treatment using embryonic stem cell implantation to try to restore function in the injured portion of Martinez's spine.

Since the injury, Seftel has aggressively pursued the necessary means to determine if Martinez is indeed a candidate, but there are numerous scientific, regulatory, technical and political hurdles the jockey and his family face, placing the injured Martinez smack in the middle of a complex ethical and medical circumstance: Treatment using embryonic stem cells is still very much a developing science and results have come from treatment on animals only. Martinez's parents, who do not speak English, are being represented by attorney Srinoi Rousseau, who is helping them secure a petition for conservatorship, a step that would give them legal authority to make medical decisions on Michael's behalf. The Menlo Park, Calif.-based biotechnology company Geron, which has been approved to conduct clinical trials of stem cell treatment on humans, after the Food and Drug Administrationlifted the hold on the company's Investigational New Drug application July 30, would possibly conduct the treatment. Meanwhile, stem cell research is in the news again, after President Obamalifted a George W. Bushban on federal funding of it, throwing the issue into the courts.

While Seftel said this past week that Martinez's spinal cord "was completely transected (severed) at the level of thoracic vertebrae 7 by multiple shards of bone that broke out from the thoracic vertebrae," he now says it is unclear if the spinal cord is completely severed. The results of an MRI on Martinez Saturday will be available Monday.

"This is one of most challenging and difficult spinal cord injuries. However, it is also a spinal cord injury that is exactly in the protocol for embryonic stem cell implantation," says Seftel. "I am certainly committed to doing absolutely everything I can, to give Michael this opportunity, because it represents the very best opportunity for him to regain some or all function of his lower levels."

Patterson told the Daily News that Martinez's family and Garcia "100% want the opportunity if Michael is deemed a candidate for the procedure," although Solis says that they would like to get a second opinion about the stem cell treatment, and make sure they fully understand what adverse effects might occur.

"The first thing, the whole family wants to have a second opinion and see if he's eligible. Then we would like to speak to a few doctors to make sure what the consequences are going to be if this is done, what his health issues or disadvantages are going to be. At the end, we'll decide," says Solis. "But at this point, yes, if he's eligible, we'd love to do it. My uncle (Audiel) talked to all the family back in Panama, and they all agree, ‘If you have the medicine at hand, just try to do it.' "


But Martinezis in a race against time, even if he is eligible to get the treatment. According to Dr. Ed Wirth, the medical director of regenerative medicine at Geron, "stem cells need to be injected between seven and 14 days after the spinal cord injury because that's the time window in which we've seen the best chance of benefit in the animal studies."

Geron plans to have seven facilities around the country opened to carry out these trials, and although the company has not made a public announcement, Seftel said that one of the facilities at Northwestern Universityin Evanston, Ill., is currently set up to receive applications for candidates. Martinezwould be treated there if he were to be deemed eligible, but transporting him to Illinoiswould pose another significant logistical hurdle.

"The general type of injury that Michael suffered would be the type - generally speaking - that would be eligible," says Wirth. "That is, in which there is an injury to the chest region of the spine and the injury that was sustained was in a fall or an automobile accident where the vertebrae and thoracic spine, the chest area, were fractured and then caused damage to the spinal cord. However, there are some limits. If spinal cord is completely severed, that person would not be eligible, because we've not seen the evidence that our cells in animals can offer any benefit when spinal cord is completely severed."

Some experts in the field of spinal cord injury remain dubious about the benefits of embryonic stem cell treatment. Dr. Barth Green, who founded the Miami Project to Cure Paralysisin 1985 with Hall of Famelinebacker Nick Buoniconti, says stem cell research is still too indeterminate with regard to the benefits, if any, of spinal cord recovery.

"Basically there's no evidence that it works," says Green "And if the spinal cord is totally severed, then the chances of getting results with these kinds of studies is much less. Hopefully they're not going to put this kid through something that could potentially hurt him. We've been frustrated, because thousands of patients are flying all over the world to have these operations. Is anybody going to see if it's safe?"

Dr. Kevin Gibbons, the director of the neurosurgical ICU at Millard FillmoreGates Hospital in Buffalo, performed the surgery on Buffalo Billsplayer Kevin Everettwhen he sustained a severe spinal cord injury three years ago. Gibbons says that stem cell treatment is not in the discussions of his peers as far as a medical option since it is still a developing science.

"The national community of individuals who take care of patients with spinal cord injuries look forward to the results of these trials, but it will be years before we know if this is ever going to become routinely available or even an approved option for patients with spinal cord injuries," says Gibbons.

Seftel, Patterson and the Martinez family are not willing to sit around and wait for the debate to be resolved. If Michael Martinez is eligible to have the treatment, it may be the one hope for the young jockey to regain a better quality of life.

"I've been riding for 28 years, and I've never seen an injury like this," says Solis. "When it hurts your own family ... it's been overwhelming is all I can tell you. The stress, just very tragic."

Adds Seftel: "We don't have a great deal of time. The time window is seven to 14 days after the injury. Every single day counts at the moment."

BY Christian Red


Jockey Michael Martinez is paralyzed from the waist down after falling from atop Fair 'N Warmer, a 1,100-pound thoroughbred that then landed on top of him.
Jockey Michael Martinez is paralyzed from the waist down after falling from atop Fair 'N Warmer, a 1,100-pound thoroughbred that then landed on top of him.
Charlotte Garcia, fiancée of jockey Michael Martinez, pregnant with their child, awaits decision on experimental surgery that could help Martinez walk again.
Charlotte Garcia, fiancée of jockey Michael Martinez, pregnant with their child, awaits decision on experimental surgery that could help Martinez walk again.

Read more:

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Racing Fans Can Help Tad Leggett Walk Again

In the Thoroughbred sport, landmark victories by jockeys are recorded by milestones numbering in the thousands. Leggett, meanwhile, has won more Quarter Horse races at Prairie Meadows than any rider ever has. That would be over 400.

Leggett’s services have been much in demand. In May, he rode the champion aged gelding Jess You And I to victory in the Remington Park Championship. He also was the regular rider of Got County Grip, a multiple world record holder.

But a month after winning the Remington Park Championship, Leggett was involved in a freak accident following the running of the third race at Fair Meadows in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Leggett, aboard the two-year-old filly Hoist the Colors, was pulling her up after the race when she suddenly and unexpectedly went down, throwing Leggett heavily. The rider emerged from the accident with a broken neck.

At St. Johns Hospital in Tulsa, Leggett had two extensive surgeries to repair the spinal injuries and stabilize his neck. After his neck became stable, he was taken to Craig Hospital in Englewood, Colorado for extensive rehabilitation.

Craig specializes is rehabilitation and therapy for catastrophic injuries to the cervical spinal cord. The good news is that Leggett recently was able to be taken off a respirator and has regained feeling and some movement in his extremities.

The bad news is that the insurance money provided by Fair Meadows in its on-track accident policy, $500,000, is gone. Leggett’s now at a crossroads, the next few months being critical to his rehabilitation and recovery.

During the rehabilitation process, Leggett’s family, wife Tina and three children, have been at his side until the children recently have had to return to school. Tina has kept vigil and has been providing updates on a website, An excerpt from a September 9 post:

“It’s been a busy week. Tad pretty much passed his swallow test this morning, so he gets to have the tube feeding [removed] during the day and he eats real food now. He has just a few restrictions, but not too bad.

“The therapist took a bunch of apparatus off his power chair. Things like the lateral holders to hold him in a sitting up position, and elbow stops to keep his elbows from sliding back when the chair tilts. He has gained so much upper body and trunk strength that he doesn't need them anymore.

“Tubes and equipment are coming off left and right. All of the therapists and the doctor are saying the same thing: They are amazed at his progress and how he has changed every day. We are told that about only 3% of people experience this.

“I wish everyone in here could [experience this kind of progress]. It has been so awesome to watch God work. I know it is only by his stripes that we are gaining anything. Each day He shows us a little more of His grace and mercy… [We’re] so thankful that Tad gets to eat real food again.”

Faith will sustain but what is now needed are deeds. And some help.

At the moment, Leggett’s oldest daughter Tiffany is juggling her college schedule so that she can take care of the youngest son, middle-schooler Trevor. Travis, a high school senior, is living in the interim with Tad’s family in Kansas.

With continued rehabilitation, there is a chance that Leggett can walk again. Toward that end, the Jockeys’ Guild has facilitated a fund to assist the Leggett family.

There was an appeal on Labor Day where all riders, Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred, donated a losing mount’s fee to the Leggett Fund. Here was a fund raising autograph session at Ruidoso on the afternoon of the All-American Futurity. Clearly, the family will need help for some time.

In this space, we’ve often referred to the passion, intelligence, and love regular HRI readers have for Thoroughbred racing on both a sporting and wagering level. I’d like to think this wasn’t just wishful thinking.

We’ve not done this before, nor do we intend to make a habit of it. I’m sure many people in this country have experienced fund-raising fatigue. But we, too, now feel a need to take advantage of the spirit demonstrated by most true horse racing fans.

If Leggett were a Thoroughbred jockey, more people might be familiar with him and his accident would have attracted more media attention and resultantly more financial support. That’s not really the case here, which is why the Jockeys’ Guild has facilitated the Tad Leggett fund.

We’d like to ask for your help, especially those regular visitors to the Feature Race Analysis link on this site. According to many readers‘ comments, they’ve done pretty well taking advantage of some of the information offered in this section on a regular basis.

So, if you’ve ever gotten lucky with us, or even if you haven't, or don't bet at all, please help. If you could donate your regular betting unit to the cause, be it $2, $10, $20, whatever, that would really help. You’d be betting that Tad will make a full recovery, live a normal life and once again provide for his family. No man could ask for more.

Please send checks to the Jockeys' Guild at 103 Wind Haven Drive, Ste 200, Nicholasville, KY 40356, making a note of “Tad Leggett” on the check's memo line. Thus far, contributions from all sources have amounted to about $150,000, but more is needed. No one knows how long this process could take.

This past Monday, Michael Martinez, the second leading rider at Golden Gate Fields, underwent 11 hours of emergency surgery to repair a severed spinal cord suffered in a spill on Sunday. He also sustained a major head injury and a punctured lung.

No athlete is underappreciated more than the race rider. He works without a guarantee beyond mount fees that don’t amount to very much. And while they never talk about it, and try not to think about it, jockeys deal with the specter of danger every time they’re given a leg up. That's not the case in mainstream sports.

Their skills have often made money for horseplayers, so please contribute what you can comfortably afford. Fortunately for Martinez--if that word is even appropriate--California is a workers compensation state. But not so Oklahoma, where Leggett was doing his job until suddenly one day he couldn’t walk anymore.

Written by John Pricci /Horseraceinsider

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Golden Gate Jockey in critical condition

 According to track physician Dr. David Seftel, Martinez had three thoracic vertebrae shatter into multiple fragments, one of which severed his spinal cord. Martinez also had a severe head injury, six broken ribs, torn blood vessels on both sides of his ribs and bleeding in both lungs.

"As far as I'm concerned, this is the worst accident I've seen in 10 years at the racetrack," Seftel said Monday afternoon. "Michael had 11 hours of surgery to remove multitudinous fragment pieces and stabilize the spinal column. As of this time he is paralyzed from the waist down."

The incident occurred in Sunday's fifth race as Martinez was riding Fair 'n Warmer, a 3-year-old filly who was favored in the 5 1/2-furlong claiming event. Fair 'n Warmer was in sixth place early on the far turn when she tumbled to the track, threw Martinez down and then rolled on top of him.

"Either she clipped heels with a horse in front of her or the saddle slipped or a combination of the two," Seftel said. "Michael was catapulted into the ground at high speed and was spinning at the same time."

Martinez woke up briefly after the surgery but was very agitated, according to Seftel, and was put in a medically induced coma.

"The good news is that he did wake up, which may be a very positive sign concerning (possible) brain damage," Seftel said. "He's going to be monitored closely over the next several days. It's going to be a minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour process. Going forward, he's a paraplegic at this time. There is a remote possibility he could be a candidate for embryonic stem cell surgery. That would offer him the only best hope to regain movement."

Martinez, 24, is a native of Panama whose cousin, Alex Solis, has been one of the top jockeys in the United States for the past 25 years. Martinez has won the second most races of any jockey in the region this year, and he ranks No. 13 in North America with 168 career victories. He began his career as a jockey at 18 and came to America in 2008, riding without much success in Southern California and New Mexico before moving to Golden Gate Fields in February 2009.

His fiancee, Charlotte Garcia, is expecting the couple's first child any day.

"It just numbs you when something like this happens," said Dennis Patterson, Martinez's agent. "Something you wouldn't wish upon the devil, and then it happens to a kid like this. I've been on the track my entire life - 50 years - and I just can't recall somebody people took a liking to like this kid. He's as likable as likable is."

Larry Stumes is a freelance writer. E-mail comments to

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Hope seen for injured Golden Gate rider

The 24-year-old rider’s life hung in the balance Monday when bleeding in his brain began at a high rate before being stabilized by Monday afternoon. His condition at Highland Hospital in Oakland, Calif., remained critical but stable on Tuesday.

Martinez is under sedation and had a restful night Monday.

The injury, which has left Martinez paralyzed from the waist down, was “one of the most devastating injuries we’ve seen” said Golden Gate Fields’ track physician’ Dr. David Seftel.

An 11-hour operation Sunday night by Dr. Frederico Castro-Moure, Highland’s chief of neurosurgery, removed shards of fractured vertebrae from Martinez’ spinal cord, which was cut completely. Rods were then attached to stabilize his spine.

Testing of embryonic stem cells in animals has shown the cells can help to regenerate severed spinal cords. Because of his age, good physical condition and small frame, Martinez would be a perfect candidate, said Dr. Seftel.

After swelling in the spinal cord recedes, doctors will determine if the cord can be reattached by putting tension on it. If it can be reattached, stem cells would be implanted on both sides of the spinal cord in hopes they would mend the cord together.

Martinez was injured when favored Fair ’n Warmer apparently clipped heels while in tight near the three-eighths pole of a $4,000 claiming race at five furlongs. Films did not provide a clear view of the incident, and a stewards’ inquiry could not place blame for the incident.

“The spinal cord was transected upon impact, then the horse rolled over on him, fracturing the vertebrae,” said Dr. Seftel. “But he’s an incredible fighter, and when we got to him, he displayed incredible strength and will power and was breathing on his own.”

Martinez’ agent, Dennis Patterson, and Fair ’n Warmer’s trainer, Billy Morey, went to Highland Hospital after the accident and were told early X-rays indicated a concussion and fracture. Morey drove Patterson back to the track to get his car. Patterson returned to the hospital and only then was advised of the severity of Martinez’ injuries.

“It was totally different from when we left the track,” said Patterson.

Martinez’s wife, Charlotte, the daughter of jockey Julio Garcia and due to deliver the couple’s first child later this month, and Martinez’s cousin jockey Alex Solis are with Martinez.Chuck Dybdal/Daily Racing Form
Benoit & Associates
Jockey Michael Martinez (left), here with cousin Alex Solis, was in critical condition at an Oakland, Calif., hospital on Tuesday.
Thursday, September 09, 2010

John Velazquez Jockey of the Week

Velazquez’s mounts received most of their earnings from his win aboard Quality Road in the $750,000 Woodward Stakes (G1) on September 4. Velazquez probably will ride Quality Road, who has won three Grade 1 races this year, in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).

Velazquez, 38, is a native of Puerto Rico who graduated from the jockey school there before embarking on a riding career that has featured 406 graded stakes wins since 1990, including seven Breeders’ Cup races and the 2007 Belmont Stakes (G1) aboard Rags to Riches.

Velazquez is no stranger to THOROUGHBRED TIMES accolades, as he was named as one of the magazine’s “40 Under 40” to watch. In addition to the riding prowess that has earned him two Eclipse Awards, Velazquez serves his peers as president of the Jockeys’ Guild. Thoroughbred Times TODAY

Wednesday, September 08, 2010


Jockey Jacky Martin, who was seeking his eighth All American Futurity win, had a troubled trip on favorite and fastest qualifier JLS Mr Bigtime but made a valiant run to take second. The Bigtime Favorite gelding earned $285,000 for breeder/owner JLS Speed Horse Ranch Inc. and trainer Darrel Soileau. It was another nose back to Bobby Cox’s homebred Mr Jess Perry colt Dominyun, who was ridden by Russel Hadley and trained by John Buchanan.

Mr Piloto, a Mr Jess Perry colt who is owned by Jose Trevino’s Tremor Enterprises LLC and was ridden by Esgar Ramirez, broke from the outside post in the field of nine depleted by the scratch of Episode Of Fire. The Felipe Quintero-trained Mr Piloto, who showed speed from the start, drifted out toward the fence and just prevailed at the wire. The colt finished the 440-yard race in :21.553 for a 87 speed index against a 5 mph headwind. He entered the race with earnings of $2,240 and left with a bankroll of $1,002,240. 

Mr Piloto (then named Maverick Perry) sold for $81,000 at the 2009 Heritage Place Yearling Sale to Ramiro Guajardo Villarreal. In January, Fernando Garcia's Garcia Bloodstock & Racing of Tucson, Arizona, acquired the colt, who began his racing career four months later with trainer Jim Boss. Quintero took over the training duties after Mr Piloto finished off the board in trials to the Grade 1 Ruidoso and Rainbow futurities. Mr Piloto was sold privately to Tremor Enterprises LLC prior to the All American trials and in his first start for Quintero, the gelding won the 15th of 20 All American trials in :21.477 to earn the final qualifying spot.

Quintero took the unusual step of stabling Mr Piloto at Horseman’s Park, a training center in nearby Tularosa, in the time between the trials and the final.

“I can't explain it,” said the trainer. “It's the best feeling in the world. I just have to thank (jockey) Esgar Ramirez, who did a wonderful job. He got the horse out of the gate the way he should.”

At age 27, Quintero is among the youngest trainers to win the prestigious race. The youngest trainer to win the All American is believed to be 26-year-old Jimmie Jones, who saddled Laico Bird to win the 1967 running.

“He broke real good,” said Ramirez. “He started lugging out a little bit. I was in front all the way, and I started getting excited because I didn't see anybody besides me. I just kept riding all the way to the wire.”
Bred in Louisiana by Ill Take a Twirl LLC, Mr Piloto is out of the Grade 3 stakes-winning Splash Bac mare Ms Pilot Point, whose first foals are 2-year-olds of this year. Owned by Grant Farms LLC, Ms Pilot Point is also the dam of Goose Perry, a full brother to Mr Piloto who posted the 12th-fastest time to the All American.

Mr Piloto is the first All American Futurity winner for Mr Jess Perry, who is the sire of 68 stakes winners and the earners of more than $32 million. Mr Jess Perry, a Grade 1 winner and the AQHA Champion 2-Year-Old Colt in 1994, stands at Four Sixes Ranch in Guthrie, Texas. The stallion had three other horses in the race, Dominyun, Miss Racy Jess and JD Baccarat.

Make Me Fly finished fourth, followed by DM Streakn Thru Fire, Cuz Iba Okey, Miss Racy Jess, JD Baccarat and Prospect To The Top, who crossed the wire seventh but was disqualified to ninth for interference.

In the $150,000 All American Juvenile Stakes (R) earlier on the card, 13-1 longshot Cold Cash 123 drew away to a two-length victory under jockey Jose Montoya. The Michigan-bred stopped the timer at :21.269 to earn a 94 speed index at 440 yards. Bred and owed by T Bill Stables Inc., the Oak Tree Special gelding won his August 19 trial for the All American Futurity presented by Sentient Jet (G1) but was not quite fast enough to make it into the final. Cold Cash 123, who is conditioned by C. Dwayne “Sleepy” Gilbreath, picked up $42,325 for the win.

Joe M. Flores’ The Printing Press, a gelding by Feature Mr Jess, got up to take second at odds of 23-1. Another longshot, Pump It Up Teller, finished third at 23-1 for owners Jeff Jones and Stephen Williams. Rainbow Futurity (G1) winner Hes Too Icy For Me crossed the wire fourth as the 7-10 favorite. AQHA Communications

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Professional jockey journey has just begun for young Frederic Lenclud

Lenclud, who ended his apprenticeship and became a journeyman rider just last week, will be aboard the same filly who helped him open the meet in winning fashion; in today’s historic Spinaway, he’s back aboard Le Mi Geaux, who he partnered to a win in the Grade III Schuylerville on opening day.

“With all these big riders over here,” said Lenclud, gesturing toward the jockeys’ room as he walked back after a victory last Monday aboard Yan Yan, “It’s always hard to get those mounts. So I’d like to thank the owner again, and the trainer, for letting me ride the horse back.”

Unlike many riders who come to their craft at a young age, Lenclud, who turned 23 on April 29, doesn’t have family in racing. The native of Lamdrecis, France was actually advised by a school guidance counselor to consider a career as a jockey because of his slight build. He spent several years honing his craft at a racing school in Chantilly and began his competitive career in England before moving to the United States to work for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott and later, Ian Wilkes in Kentucky.

Lenclud’s life as a “bug boy” began on that Kentucky circuit in summer 2009. Apprentice riders, often called “bugs” because of an asterisk that appears beside their names in the program, ride with a 10-pound weight allowance until they’ve piloted five winners. The allowance then drops to five pounds for a year; once he’s ridden enough winners, the apprentice becomes a journeyman.

Lenclud earned his first win in the United States on July 11, 2009, piloting the Wilkes trainee Bearpath to his maiden victory at Ellis Park. Lenclud kept the mount on the big bay for a few more allowance wins that summer; both scored their first graded win this past March 27, when they teamed up to win the Grade III Pan American Handicap at Gulfstream.

Riding at Oaklawn Park this winter and spring, Lenclud rode 24 winners to rank as the leading apprentice at the meet; perhaps more noteworthy, he finished seventh overall in the standings, at a meet where the top three were journeymen 

Terry Thompson, Corey Nakatani and Calvin Borel. Lenclud also stopped in at the short Keeneland spring meet to ride five winners, good for a tie for ninth in the overall standings there.

The Churchill Downs spring/summer meet was a breakout one for Lenclud. He put together an overall record of 249-29-41-30, finishing in the money over 40 percent of the time. His 29 victories made his, again, the leading apprentice at the meet and ranked him sixth overall in the standings. Ahead of him were Borel, who rode his third Kentucky Derby winner at the meet; Corey Lanerie, a Kentucky mainstay; Robby Albarado, whose career includes the ride aboard two Horse of the Year honorees; journeyman Francisco Torres; and Shaun Bridgmohan, another fierce competitor. Behind Lenclud in the standings were well-respected journeymen Jamie Theriot and Nakatani, as well as defending Eclipse Award winner Julien Leparoux, one of the riders to whom Lenclud is most often compared. That’s no insult. Leparoux came to America from France as a young apprentice and proved wildly successful on the Kentucky circuit; he earned the Eclipse as leading apprentice in 2006 while leading the nation in wins. Four years later, Leparoux has five Breeders’ Cup victories and another Eclipse on his resume.

Lenclud made headlines on May 6 at Churchill Downs when he piloted three winners in one day. Fittingly, he was the first apprentice to pull off that feat since Leparoux in the spring of 2006.

On the heels of that Churchill meet, Lenclud jumped into even deeper water at Saratoga this summer. The cutthroat New York jockey colony includes multiple Hall of Famers — and some riders who are surely headed there someday — and Eclipse Award winners; even the best riders can find themselves going through dry spells or struggling for mounts.

Lenclud, although riding mostly longshots, has more than held his own. His record through Saturday stands at 118-7-9-13, with those seven victories ranking him 14th in the standings. He’ll again finish the meet as the top apprentice.

“It’s actually went a lot better than what I was expecting,” Lenclud said. “It’s always better that way, you know? I was a little ambitious, I thought maybe I could try to win five. I’m already on my seventh. So I’m pretty happy with that.”

Lenclud has drawn rave reviews for some of his signature rides at the meet this summer. Over a sloppy track on opening day, he guided longshot Le Mi Geaux to a late-running win in the Schuylerville, a race where even trainer Rick Dutrow thought she was perhaps overmatched. On Aug. 19, Lenclud found himself second to last early aboard the maiden Mountain Town; he began picking off horses in the upper stretch and then, in a nifty piece of riding, found a seam on the rail at the sixteenth pole and burst through for the victory.

Now, his goal is to finish the meet strong before returning to Kentucky for the fall.

“I’m going to try to win more and more here if I can,” he said. “That’d be nice, if I can win without my bug, you know? So people see I can win without it.”
The Saratogian/By NICOLE RUSSO
Thursday, September 02, 2010

Jersey Sale to Benefit Old Friends,The Race For Education, and Jockeys' Guild.

"We are calling this a three in one Hall of Fame jersey promotion benefiting thoroughbred charities, Jack Mutz, Owner of MVP Champions said in a statement. When Bob Baffert signed our first collectible jersey April 3rd, 2010, Derby Day at Santa Anita, we knew that the vision of supporting thoroughbred charities with collectible jersey sales would work. Since then, we have had sell out promotions at Hollywood Park and Del Mar, with Laffit Pincay Jr. and Mike Smith signing jerseys benefiting charities of their choice. We thank everyone for supporting our efforts."

 A portion proceeds from the sale of each jersey will benefit Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement, Jockeys' Guild, and The Race For Education The Race For Education , a national 501(c)(3) scholarship organization, that enables young people of equine industry families as well as those who want to pursue an equine-related or agricultural career, to obtain a college degree.

MVP Champions plans release new Hall of Fame collectible jerseys at special promotions planned at Hollywood Park and Golden Gate in October.
The jerseys feature Russell Baze commemorating his 11,000th win, a Hall of Fame All Star jersey featuring Chris McCarron, Gary Stevens, Eddie Delahoussaye, and Laffit Pincay Jr., and a prestigious triple crown jersey featuring thoroughbred racing legend Secretariat.

The collectible Hall of Fame jerseys can be purchased at 
The Blood-Horse
Thursday, September 02, 2010

Javier Castellano Named Jockey of the Week

Afleet Express closed from seventh under Castellano and held off a furious charge by Fly Down to win the $1-million Travers Stakes (G1) by a nose at Saratoga Race Course. Castellano also won the $200,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap (G2) on Friday on Get Stormy and the $70,000 Ann Clare Stakes aboard Yawkey Way on Wednesday, both at Saratoga.

In all, Castellano rode ten winners from 45 starters for purse earnings of $1,152,996 during the period, pushing his season total to $8,762,722, which ranks fifth among jockeys through August 31.

Originally from Venezuela, Castellano, 32, moved to the U.S. in June 1997 to ride the Florida circuit. He later moved his tack to New York in 2001. His top mounts include 2004 Horse of the Year Ghostzapper, ’06 champion three-year-old male Bernardini, and Red Rocks (Ire), whom he rode to victory over eventual Horse of the Year Curlin in the 2008 Man o’ War Stakes (G1).  Thoroughbred Times TODAY




Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Rosario and Bejarano battle for Del Mar riding title

Rosario, the leading jockey of the meeting with 43 wins, saw Bejarano get thrown violently from his mount, Wallstreeter, near the half-mile pole. Rosario, just behind Wallstreeter with his horse, Include Me Out, made the snap judgment to steer his horse around Bejarano. The move cost Rosario any chance to win the race, but it saved Bejarano from being seriously injured or worse.

Bejarano was treated and released from Scripps La Jolla Hospital that day and actually cleared to ride races later in the card. He opted to rest and heal and is expected to be back racing Wednesday, just three days after the accident that looked more horrific than it actually was.

“I just hope he’s OK and that he can make it back,” said Rosario, who won the jockey title here last year and also was leading rider at Hollywood Park this spring. Bejarano won the title here in 2008.

They may be battling for the jockey title, fighting for the bronze trophy that comes with it, but Rosario, 25, and Bejarano, 28, have tremendous respect for each other. They represent the new generation of riders who are all business and as professional as any businessman in a suit and tie.

“We’re both working really hard,” said Rosario, who leads Bejarano by two wins with seven racing days left. “I’m trying to do it again, but I know Rafael is going to be tough to beat.”

Bejarano proved his toughness after a similar spill on opening day at Del Mar last year. But that time, after falling from a horse that broke down, Bejarano was run over by a trailing horse. He was struck in the face and suffered severe facial injuries that required extensive surgery and sidelined him nearly the entire meeting.

“I got off to a slow start here (once trailing Rosario by eight going into Day 13), but I’m very happy with where I am now,” Bejarano said before his spill last week. “I feel like I’m riding well. I’m healthy, and I’m enjoying it. We’re getting good business right now, and I have a lot of motivation to finish the meet strong. It’s so hard to win here with all the competition.”

The competition could have been much tougher, but two accidents involving young jockeys, Tyler Baze and Joe Talamo, resulted in a complete change in the course of Del Mar’s race meet.

Baze suffered severe fractures around his right eye, a bruised retina and a broken nose when he was head-butted by his horse on July 24, and Talamo broke his left wrist Aug. 5 in a spill from a horse that later was euthanized. Baze had won four races in the first four days before getting injured. His agent, Vic Stauffer, said Baze is pointing for the Oak Tree meeting starting Sept. 29.

Talamo was off to a blazing start, winning 12 races in the first 11 days and was tied for second with Bejarano, seven behind Rosario. He also is pointing for the Oak Tree meeting for his return to riding.

Talamo’s agent, Scott McClellan, can list six stakes races, 30 races total, that Talamo, who is 20, would have ridden.

“It was devastating because of how well he was doing against all the top riders at Del Mar,” McClellan said.

With those two young stars out, enter veteran jockey Patrick Valenzuela, who most felt had ridden his last race in California. Valenzuela had been racing in Louisiana after the California Horse Racing Board suspended him permanently for alcohol and drug abuse in September 2008. The CHRB reinstated Valenzuela on July 22, opening up Valenzuela’s return for the second week of racing. All Valenzuela has done since then is ride like a 20-something-year-old. He has 23 wins (19 seconds and 18 thirds) from 150 mounts and is third in wins behind Rosario and Bejarano in the jockey standings, two ahead of Victor Espinoza.

“I was pretty confident and pretty optimistic,” Valenzuela said. “I thought it could happen, and I even thought I could get to the top of the standings. But to be third and to compete with these guys half my age and get support from the horsemen means a lot to me. I’m no different than they are. I’m sure they like being No. 1 and work to be that. I know I love being No. 1 at a meet.”

Valenzuela has won five Del Mar riding titles, the last in 2003. He knows what a Del Mar title means to a rider’s career. Even being third will mean more business, more riding opportunities, Valenzuela said.

“To win any riding title it shows you that you and your agent are working together hard and putting business first,” Valenzuela said. “If we would have been here at the start of the meet, who knows, it might have happened. To do as well as we’re doing at this meet is a thrill in itself. It means a lot to me. It opens other doors. It opens doors to stakes horses. It opens people’s eyes.”

Valenzuela has been impressed with Rosario and Bejarano.

“I have a lot of respect for those two individuals on top of the standings,” Valenzuela said. “I don’t know them that well, but they show a lot of class. They work really hard. Bejarano is a great rider, and Joel is really coming into his own right now. I just hope I can get back on top of them”   By Ed Zieralski, UNION-TRIBUNE



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