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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Jockeys Across the Nation to Honor Mark Villa and Michael Martinez


 Guild members will ride with a Jockeys’ Guild decal on their boots and all jockeys will be asked to donate one losing mount fee to each of the two charities providing assistance.


            Mark Villa was killed in an accident at Zia Park on September 25th.  Michael Martinez suffered a severed spinal cord and a major head injury in a spill at Golden Gate Fields on September 12th.


            Villa is survived by his wife, Krystal, and six-year-old twins, Olivia and Garrett.  Martinez and his fiancée, Charlotte, are the parents of a baby girl, Merari, born shortly after his injury.  Martinez is currently undergoing rehabilitation in California at the Rehabilitation Center at Santa Clara Medical Center.


            Contributions can be made to the charity aiding the family of Mark Villa by sending a check made out to Race Track Chapel to the mailing address Ruidoso Downs, Race Track Chapel, P.O. Box 449, Ruidoso Downs, NM 88346 with the notation “Mark Villa Family” on the memo line.


            Donations to the charity providing help to Michael Martinez and his family can be made out to “Michael Martinez Fund” and sent to Golden Gate Fields, 1100 Eastshore Highway, Berkeley, CA 94710.


            “These are tragic events that seriously affect the lives of families, friends and co-workers,” said Terry Meyocks, National Manager of the Jockeys’ Guild.  “The families need help and support to get them through this difficult period.  They have suffered life-altering tragedies.  I hope everybody will be generous in support of this effort to help these families in need.”





Contact:  Jockeys’ Guild, Inc. 

                (859) 305-0606              

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Rosie Napravnik Collects 1,000th Career Win

The 22-year-old rider's milestone victory came for trainer Steve Hobby and owner Tat Hoi Fung. She scored by 1 3/4 lengths from off the pace aboard the 3-year-old son of Indian Charlie   in a $5,000 claiming race at six furlongs over a sloppy main track.

Napravnik is the current leading rider at the Delaware Park meet with a record of 121 winners from 512 mounts. The native of Morristown, N.J., is seeking  to become the first female to lead the jockey standings in Delaware Park history. The meet is to conclude Nov. 6.
Starting her career in Maryland, Napravnik notched her first win when just 17 aboard her first mount, Ringofdiamonds, at Pimlico Racecourse on June 9, 2005. She went on to win riding titles at Laurel Park in 2006 and 2008. Last year, she finished second in the Delaware Park jockey standings.   The Blood-Horse

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ramon A. Dominguez Named Thoroughbred Times Today Jockey of the Week

He led all North American riders by wins, stakes wins, and purse earnings during the previous seven days ended October 26.

Dominguez, 33, won three stakes last weekend, all at Belmont Park. He took the Mighty Forum Stakes on Sunday with multiple graded stakes winner Arson Squad and, on Saturday, he piloted Bandbox to victory in the Sleepy Hollow Stakes and Meese Rocks to a win in the Iroquois Stakes.

Following last week’s exploits, Dominguez leads all North American jockeys by purse earnings with $13,758,948—$81,500 more than second-place John Velazquez—and by wins with 304, which is 12 more than Deshawn Parker in second.

The winner of more than 4,000 races during his career, Dominguez will be seeking a second career Breeders’ Cup victory at Churchill Downs. He won the 2004 John Deere Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) with Better Talk Now.  Thoroughbred Times TODAY

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pact will allow Kentucky jockeys to keep sponsor deals private

Under the settlement, an emergency regulation adopted by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission in June that required jockeys to submit copies of sponsorship and advertising agreements to the commission will be suspended, according to the Guild and commission. Last week, the Guild had filed a lawsuit to suspend the rule, in part because of concerns that the new requirement would impair riders' ability to reach the agreements in advance of the Nov. 5-6 Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs in Louisville.

"We are pleased to reach this agreement with the KHRC," said Terry Meyocks, the national manager of the Jockeys' Guild, in a release. "It provides a reasonable short-term solution to the issue. Hopefully we can build on this agreement and find common ground on other issues we face together."

The commission had adopted the new requirement after a flap between some owners and riders erupted during this year's Kentucky Derby. Emergency rules in Kentucky can go into effect immediately for a six-month period while the state's legislators consider a formal adoption of the new regulations.

Last month, a legislative committee considering the new regulation suspended action on the rule until November because of riders' complaints about the requirement to disclose the financial terms. Riders have argued that scrutiny of the contracts would have a chilling effect on the willingness of advertisers and sponsors to reach advertising agreements with jockeys.

According to the commission, jockeys will still need approval from stewards, owners, and racing associations before they will be allowed to wear any advertising materials while riding. Matt Hegarty/Daily Racing Form

Monday, October 25, 2010

Garrett Gomez's Blog

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Announcing the Official Breeders’ Cupcake!

 The Breeders’ Cupcake is a combination ofchocolate cake with a bourbon and caramel swirl, then topped with purple buttercream icing and adorned with gold flakes and a gold leaf, representing the official colors of Breeders’ Cup.


“We wanted to create a fun and delicious treat for the Breeders’ Cup and are thrilled with what Cake Flour has created,” said Peter Rotondo, Vice President of Media and Entertainment for Breeders’ Cup.  “We’re also excited to give back to the Louisville community by donating $1 from every Breeders’ Cupcake sold to our partner, the Robby Albarado Foundation,” Rotondo said.

The Breeders’ Cupcake will be unveiled on October 26th at Cake Flour bakery.  Horseracing legend Robby Albarado will attend the kick-off event which will take place at 9 a.m.

Cupcakes can be purchased individually for $3.75 or by the dozen for $40. One dollar from each cupcake sold will be donated to the Robby Albarado Foundation; the Breeders’ Cup will make a matching donation connected to the sales of the cupcakes. 

“We are thrilled that the Breeders' Cup has selected our Foundation as the beneficiary of the new Breeders' Cupcake," said Robby Albarado, founder of the Robby Albarado Foundation. "This is just another example of the Breeders' Cup's commitment to our community, and we are very excited to have the privilege of partnering with them and Cake Flour."


The Robby Albarado Foundation was established by horseracing legend Robby Albarado in an effort to give back to the Louisville community by improving and enriching the lives of young people through personal involvement, volunteerism and financial support.  By purchasing a single Breeders’ Cupcake, you can help contribute to achieving that same mission.

“I think it’s great,” said Cake Flour owner Claudia Delatorre, who says she’s honored Breeders’ Cup selected her bakery.  “I wasn’t expecting it. I wasn’t expecting them to come to me. It’s great to be a part of the community and to be able to do all these fun things that bring awareness to non-profits, and if cupcakes can assist in that, that’s awesome.We wanted to keep with the whole Kentucky theme. We definitely wanted to include something native of here.”


The Breeders’ Cupcake will go on sale at Cake Flour at 909 E. Market St., Suite 100, Louisville, Ky. during the week of October 25, 2010. They will also be available at some Breeders’ Cup events, occurring on November 5, 2010 and November 6, 2010. Breeders’ Cupcakes can also be ordered by calling (502) 719-0172.  You can find the recipe online at





About Breeders’ Cup

The Breeders’ Cup administers the Breeders’ Cup World Championships; Thoroughbred racing’s year-end Championships consisting of 14 races and $25.5 million in purses, which makes it the richest event in sports. At last year’s Breeders’ Cup, more than $100 million in winning wagers were returned to fans at betting locations around the globe.  The Breeders’ Cup also administers the Breeders’ Cup Challenge qualifying series, and the Breeders’ Cup Stakes Program. Breeders’ Cup has offices in Lexington, Ky., and in New York City. Breeders’ Cup press releases appear on the Breeders’ Cup Web site, You may follow the Breeders’ Cup on Twitter at

About the Robby Albarado Foundation

Based in Louisville, Ky., the Robby Albarado Foundation is a federallyrecognized501(c) (3) nonprofit organization established to improve and enrich the lives of young people through personal involvement, volunteerism and financial support. To learn more about the Robby Albarado Foundation, please visit


About Cake Flour

"Cake Flour: enjoying simple, natural food. A sweet find where scrumptious treats are added to the organic lifestyle. Cake Flour is an all natural baking company adding quality alternatives to processed food. No artificial anything, ever! Special orders are welcome so indulge yourself!" For more information, contact or call 502-719-0172.  You also may follow Cake Flour on Twitter at


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Jockeys' Guild asks judge to block rule on safety vests, advertising

The emergency rule requires the use of safety vests that meet certain international standards and requires jockeys to disclose what they’re being paid for advertising on their pants.

Copies of the filings were not immediately available Tuesday evening.

A news release from the guild, which is the trade association for riders, said it is seeking a temporary restraining order and an expedited hearing on the rule, which went into effect June 15.

Racing commission officials have said previously that the guild pushed for the new safety requirements. But the guild said Tuesday night that no emergency exists and that discussions have gone on more than two years.

The advertising restrictions are timely, the guild states, because of the Nov. 5-6 Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs, which presents a major opportunity where races are prominent enough to interest advertisers.

The guild argues that the emergency regulation’s requirement that jockeys disclose all terms of any sponsorship agreement to the commission would make them public and discourage potential sponsors. The commission has agreed to drop the requirement from a proposed permanent regulation that is under legislative review, but the emergency rule remains in effectLouisville Courier-Journal 10/20/2010

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Guild seeks restraining order on Kentucky vest, advertising rules

The Guild has filed a motion in Franklin Circuit Court in Frankfort, Kentucky, seeking a temporary restraining order to prevent enforcement of state regulations regarding new safety vest specifications as well as that terms of sponsorship agreements be disclosed.

Implemented as an emergency regulation by the KHRC, the rules went into effect on June 15.

“Safety is, and will continue to be, the main concern of the Guild,” the Guild said. “However, no emergency exists to require the regulation’s implementation as an ‘emergency regulation.’ The discussion pertaining to the improvement of the standards for safety vests has been going on for [more than] two years, but there is not sufficient data to determine if the standards required by the emergency regulation are the safest standards.”

The new regulation requires safety vests for all workers on the track and outlines the standards for the vests. The commission noted that the regulation added protection to riders and workers when it passed the regulation as an emergency regulation.

The emergency regulation also would affect possible sponsorship agreements at the upcoming Breeders’ Cup World Championships November 5-6 at Churchill Downs in Louisville.

Again, the Guild contends there is no reason why emergency regulation had to be passed that requires jockeys provide disclosure terms—including financial terms—of sponsorship agreements. The Guild said the requirement would hinder negotiations with potential sponsors.

The commission passed the sponsorship rules this year after commissioners Tom Ludt and Tom Conway, who had ownership ties to horses in the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (G1), complained about procedures at this year’s Derby.

Frank Angstis a Thoroughbred Times senior staff writer

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Rosario putting himself among elite jockeys

In 2006, he moved to the United States from his native Dominican Republic and made an early impression at Golden Gate Fields, finishing second to Russell Baze in two meets there. He moved to Southern California the following year, won his first graded stakes in 2008, and last year won three riding titles in Southern California and a Breeders’ Cup race, the Sprint, on the outsider Dancing in Silks.

The 2010 season is already one full of accomplishments. He has ridden the winners of Grade 1 races at Churchill Downs, Keeneland, and Saratoga – his first stakes wins at those tracks – and has ridden several Grade 1 winners in California and won riding titles at the Hollywood Park spring-summer and Del Mar meetings. Through Sunday, he led the jockey standings at the current Oak Tree at Hollywood Park meeting.

He may add much more in coming weeks. Rosario, 22, has at least six mounts lined up for the Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5-6, including favored Blind Luck in the BC Ladies’ Classic, and a victory or two that weekend could boost him from his current fourth-place position on the national earnings list and into the conversation for the Eclipse Award as the year’s outstanding rider.

Such an accomplishment is in the back of his mind.

“This year, I started to win bigger races,” he said. “You have to win the bigger races to have a chance to be number one.

“You have to continue to do well. Now is the time. . . . Maybe I can get to the awards.”

Rosario will know by the evening of Friday, Nov. 5 how his Breeders’ Cup weekend is unfolding. That is when will try to guide the 3-year-old filly Blind Luck to her sixth stakes win of 2010 and a chance to clinch the division championship.

Aside from Blind Luck, Rosario’s list of expected mounts includes Champ Pegasus in the Turf, Jordy Y in the Juvenile, Sidney’s Candy in the Mile, Supreme Summit in the Sprint, Switch in the Filly and Mare Sprint, and possibly Harmonious in the Filly and Mare Turf.

He picked up the mount on Blind Luck from rival California jockey Rafael Bejarano during the summer and has ridden Blind Luck to wins in the Delaware Oaks, his first stakes win there, and the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 21. His only loss aboard Blind Luck was a second in the Cotillion Stakes at Parx Racing on Oct. 2, when Blind Luck closed well but finished a neck behind Havre de Grace. Blind Luck carried 124 pounds, while Havre de Grace carried 114.

“She finished great in the last quarter-mile,” Rosario said of Blind Luck. “The other filly ran too good the other day. The 10 pounds is a lot of difference.”

Jerry Hollendorfer, who trains Blind Luck, has given Rosario mounts on an increasing number of leading horses in the last year, such as the stakes winners City to City and Dakota Phone. He saw Rosario during the rider’s early days in the United States at Golden Gate Fields when his English was limited and his ability not as refined. As Rosario’s confidence has grown, so has Hollendorfer’s desire to use the rider.

“I think you have to have someone who believes they can do the job, and you have to have the talent to use that in the big races,” Hollendorfer said.

Harmonious, trained by John Shirreffs, gave Rosario his first Grade 1 win at Keeneland last Saturday in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup. She would be a contender in the Filly-Mare Turf, if she runs.

For Rosario, winning such races and having a strong roster of mounts for the Breeders’ Cup were a dream when he moved to this country.

“Hopefully, I can win it and we can get everything we can,” he said. “I don’t feel any pressure. I always do my job. To be on top is good because you have more chances to ride better horses. This is a good thing.”

There was little pressure on Rosario when he rode in the 2009 Breeders’ Cup. This year will be different. His reputation has grown and so have expectations.

“It’s kinda cool,” he said. “This is what I wanted when I came to America. This is the place that everyone wants to be.”  Steve Anderson/Daily Racing Form
Monday, October 18, 2010

Jockey Lanerie good at riding on high road

By all accounts, here's what Lanerie is: a good family man who simply wins lots of races while keeping his nose clean. When he reaches 3,000 career wins — probably early next year, as he now stands at 2,951 — it might rank among the quietest and most controversial-free journeys to that landmark.

“Those guys are always overlooked,” said trainer Steve Asmussen, who has used Lanerie off and on for years. “We like somebody out of rehab because our memory of them is better than the truth.”

Lanerie, 35, is amid one of the most important runs of his 20-year riding career. He was second to Calvin Borel in victories during Churchill's spring meet — his best Downs finish ever — then won the Ellis Park title and was second at Turfway's fall session. His four wins at Keeneland tie him for fifth in the standings.

“He's one of the best-kept secrets in Kentucky,” trainer Dale Romans said after Lanerie rode his horse Guys Reward to a $21.80 victory in Saturday's eighth race at Keeneland. “Jake (Romans' son) has been pushing me to ride him a lot more, and he watches as many races as anybody.

“We never see him in the big, big races. But he'd fit in a big race with anybody. … Somebody has to give you a break. And that's all he needs, a break. He tactically rides a good race — a good smart rider and a good person, and he can tell you something about a horse afterward.”

The words “consistent,” “steady” and “dependable” make their way into any conversation about Lanerie.

“He's a straight-up, no-nonsense kind of a guy,” trainer Eddie Kenneally said. “You know what you're going to get. He's not different from day to day.”

His only habit: playing golf.

Lanerie probably is one of only a few riders to quit as Asmussen's first-call rider, doing so several years back after the often-volatile trainer chewed him out in public one too many times.
“Yeah, he got tired of listening to me, which is very understandable,” said Asmussen, who still rides Lanerie in certain spots and says he's proud of what the jockey has made of himself since starting out with the “cheapest purses, slowest horses” in Texas. “ … It is one of the things I regret in racing is how hard I was on him. He is a quality human being.”

And Lanerie gives Asmussen credit for boosting his career.

“He's made me a better rider, just from the constructive criticism that I might not have understood at the time,” he said.

Having evolved into one of the leading riders in Texas, Lanerie five years ago joined the stream of Cajun-born jockeys to make Louisville their home. Robby Albarado encouraged his friend to take the plunge.

“He's come a long way,” Albarado said. “He's very clean-cut. At the same time, he's not passive on the track. (But) you seldom see him in a lot of trouble on the racetrack; you never see him run up in bad spots.”

Lanerie won riding titles at Lone Star, Retama and Sam Houston in Texas. He admits moving his tack to Churchill was daunting and that he hoped to win two or three races a week.

“I was scared,” he said. “I was probably intimidated when I first came here, didn't know if I could make it at the big track. Robby Albarado was a big help. I was ready for a change and said, ‘I'll go give it a try.' And I'm glad I did. I love it here.”

Lanerie, who rides in New Orleans during the winter, has chosen to stay in Kentucky for the summer, riding the three-day race weeks at Ellis instead of going on to Arlington Park in mid-meet or Saratoga after Churchill closes.

“Though the purses are a lot smaller at Ellis, I think I make more money and definitely win more races,” he said. “That helps your business, because people want to see who's winning, no matter where you're at.”

Still, riding at Ellis and Turfway probably is not going to enhance his goal of riding in the Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup.

But what impresses 2-year-old Brittlyn Lanerie most about her dad isn't last year's Ashland victory on Hooh Why or how well he did at Churchill.

“It's so funny because at Ellis, you know they do those camel and ostrich races,” said Lanerie's wife, Shantel. “She tells everybody, ‘My daddy rides camels and ostriches.' ”

Shantel said that experience shows her husband's perseverance.

“He came off the ostrich out of the gate, got up, took off running and jumped back on,” she said. “The man (with the ostriches) said he's never seen anybody do that ever. Corey didn't win, but he was determined he was finishing on the ostrich's back.”
Louisville Courier-Journal/Jennie Rees at (502) 582-4042.
Monday, October 18, 2010


Velasquez, a 42-year-old native of Panama, scored his first win in the fourth race when he piloted favored Nuclear Wayne ($5.10) to a three-quarter length victory in a six-furlong optional claimer, and his second in the seventh race, in which he rallied Dougie ($5.10), another favorite, to a five-length score in a seven-furlong maiden race on the grass.

 In the ninth race, a six-furlong claimer, Velasquez brought favored Philotimo ($6.20) from just off the pace to a 4 ¾ length win, and he closed out the day with a wire-to-wire win aboard short-priced Watkins Glen ($2.80), keying a $8.20 late double.

 Velasquez, perennially one of the top 10 riders on The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) circuit, currently is fifth in the jockey standings for Belmont’s 37-day fall championship meet with 19 winners. Ramon Dominguez leads all jockeys with 38 wins.



Friday, October 15, 2010

Could this jacket make racing safer for jockeys?

A horse in the starting gate can rear up and bounce you off unforgiving metal. That’s what killed jockey Alvaro Pineda at Santa Anita in 1975. Some horses get fired up in the post parade and flip over. Getting a horse to “whoa” after a race has ended can lead to trouble, too. In 1961, Sidney Cole died at Aqueduct when his mount propped while being pulled up, throwing Cole headfirst into the rail. And this does not even begin to account for the multitudinous dangers inherent in the actual running of a race.
Point Two
A new safety jacket being used in equestrian events essentially acts as an airbag for riders. A carbon-dioxide cartridge inflates the jacket when a rider is dislodged from his saddle.

What’s surprising, really, is that accidents that paralyze riders or kill them don’t happen more often. In horse racing, few technological features exist that can improve the safety of a jockey. You can count the major safety advances of the last 100 years on one hand: goggles, helmets, safety vests, safer rails, and starting gates. But something that might cut back on rare tragic outcomes has hit the sport’s horizon. The inflatable safety jacket, a jockey’s airbag, has taken off among riders in equestrian events and is in the process of making the jump to racing.

Rumblings about an airbag for jockeys are timely, since the sport is only weeks removed from two racing tragedies. Michael Martinez incurred serious spinal injuries when his mount clipped heels and fell Sept. 12 at Golden Gate Fields. And on Sept. 25 at Zia Park in New Mexico, jockey Mark Anthony Villa was killed when his horse broke down after crossing the finish in a Quarter Horse futurity trial.

Martinez’s injury is just the sort of occurrence the air jackets are intended to protect against.

Air jackets appear to have been developed during the 1990s in Japan, and a Japanese company called Hit Air retains prominence in the marketplace. The jackets were marketed primarily to motorcycle racers up until a few years ago, at which point they began infiltrating the horse world.

Point Two is an English company that has taken the lead in supplying air jackets to horse riders. The company has sold about 10,000 air jackets in the last 18 months, including 6,000 sales to equestrian event riders, and Point Two supplies many national equestrian teams, including the one fielded by the United States, according to director Lee Middleton. Point Two sells the air jacket for $700, about $500 more than the cost of a traditional flak jacket.

The air jacket actually is a vest that fastens around the front of the torso. Attached to the vest is a lanyard, which clips to the rider’s saddle on one end and to a carbon-dioxide cartridge on the other. When the rider is dislodged from the saddle, the lanyard is unclipped from the cartridge, triggering the release of CO2, which inflates pockets inside the vest. The inflation rate has been engineered down to a tenth of a second, and the vest can deploy in time to help cushion a fall from as little as 25 centimeters (9.8 inches) off the ground.

The air pockets help cushion impact on the base of the neck, the spine, the chest, and the ribs. Research has shown that the inflatable vest can add close to 50 percent more spinal protection than the best safety vests in widespread use. The risk of rib fractures and organ damage also can be significantly decreased.

“It’s virtually eliminated life-threatening injuries in certain scenarios,” Middleton said.

A little more than a year ago, Point Two began showing its air jacket to race jockeys. “We gave them the existing eventing jacket we had, and they said, ‘Look, we like the concept, but we can’t have it this way. It’s too baggy,’” Middleton said. So Point Two worked on an updated version. After several attempts, they settled on a design where the airbag is sewn outside the normal vest with a light mesh. “This zips up tight, and it can be worn tight. Before, it would rustle around,” Middleton said. The lanyard, the neck support, and the volume of the airbag are the same as on the original vest. But whereas the eventers clip their lanyard to the side of the saddle, racers are meant to sew a piece of leather onto their saddle, attach a ring to it, and clip the lanyard there.

Middleton said Ruby Walsh, one of the leading jump-race riders in the world, has tested the redesigned air jacket and has been pleased with the results. Doctors at the Irish Turf Club liked Point Two’s product enough that they ordered 12 jackets for riders to use. Middleton said he hopes that within a year, the inflatable air vest may be in widespread racing use.

But besides longer distances and barriers that horses must hurdle, jump-racing has a major divergence with flat racing: no starting gate. Adapting the air jacket to use in a starting gate may take some doing.

“The way they deploy is when you fall off the horse, and that can be very challenging in our sport,” said jockey John Velazquez, who is chairman of the Jockeys’ Guild.

“Unless someone can figure out a way to trigger the inflation other than coming off the horse, that’s not going to work very well in Thoroughbred racing,” said retired jockey Chris McCarron, a former Jockeys’ Guild chairman himself.

The technical challenges of the inflatable vests appear far more complex than those faced in earlier safety advances. In previous situations, it was sheer resistance – sometimes by the very participants who stood to benefit from the advances – that held up implementation of new technology.

It took some 20 years, between the early 1900s and the 1920s, for goggles to be phased into regular use. Ever see what the goggles of a jockey look like after the running of a dirt race on a wet day? Now try to imagine riding with nothing covering the eyes.

It wasn’t until the mid-1950s that helmets became part of a rider’s standard equipment. Before that, the head was protected by a little leather beanie. From a contemporary perspective, such a lack of protection seems crazy, but when the Caliente helmet – so called because it was introduced by once-prominent Caliente racetrack in Mexico – was offered up, the response from jockeys was mixed.

“I remember hearing stories from [Eddie] Arcaro and [Johnny] Longden about when the helmets came out,” McCarron said. “It was the same thing as with the vests.”

McCarron was involved in the initial introduction of those safety vests − commonly called flak jackets – currently in use by Thoroughbred riders. A study in the early 1990s, conducted by the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, found that 60 percent of jockeys suffer multiple fractures. Of those fractures, 53 percent occur in the upper body and chest. No wonder. A shirt and a silk riding top do not provide a satisfactory level of padding during a fall.

Interestingly, the flak jacket traveled the same path of development that the inflatable air vest seems to be taking, going from eventing to jump races and finally into flat racing, and moving from initial acceptance in England, where they became mandatory in 1991, to use in the United States, which began requiring riders to wear them three years later.

“When jockeys first found out about them, nobody wanted to wear them,” McCarron said. “They were bulky, hot in the summertime. And it was different. Whenever something new is introduced, people are kind of slow to come around before it’s fully accepted.”

Horsemen also were concerned about the weight the vest would add to the jockey’s load. That concern was alleviated by including the vest’s weight in the weight a jockey was assigned in a race, but still: Trading two pounds for shattered ribs and a punctured lung? Less than 20 years later, the vests, made of high-density foam packed inside an outer shell, have become second nature for riders.

“Now you don’t even notice it,” Velazquez said.

Given the difficulties of putting into play equipment advances that were simple, will racing feel compelled to try to overcome the challenges of the inflatable jacket? It is not just the starting gate that is a problem, but all the time from the moment a jockey mounts the horse until he goes into the gate. Riders regularly get thrown in the paddock or during the post parade. If that happens while wearing an inflatable vest, as presently constructed, the CO2 cartridge is going to pop.

“Really, the history of intransigence in this industry is legendary,” Dr. David Seftel said.

Seftel serves as the track physician at Golden Gate fields, where Martinez suffered the fall that has left him partially paralyzed. Another rider at Golden Gate, Francisco Duran, had pointed out the air vests to Seftel a couple of weeks before Martinez’s accident, and Seftel quickly did some research.

“With Michael’s injury, I said this is not something, this is everything. This has to be made available, and not only for the jockeys, but for the exercise riders. As long as it works, it should be mandated.

“It would make a huge difference,” Seftel said. “The physics of it are so compelling. We know from our own understanding of airbags in automobiles just how valuable this technology is, and the fact they deploy so rapidly is so important.”

Seftel and Duran went to brainstorming, envisioning how air vests might be employed given flat-racing protocols. Seftel mentioned minor gate modifications, dedicated hooks attached to all riding saddles, and altered lanyard lengths to avoid gate triggering.

“Another issue is when you attach,” Seftel said. “Francisco suggested that once the horses were stable, the assistant starter could call out, ‘Attach,’ and riders would clip on.”

Duran is from Northern California, but he rode the Emerald Downs meeting that ended Sept. 26. Reached in Washington in late September, he continued musing about how unwanted jacket triggering might be overcome.

“The racetrack could have extra vests on standby at the starting gate – at least two – and if you had a false trigger, you’d take off that vest and put on another one,” Duran said. “I think that would be the fastest way to actually get around that problem.”

While in Washington, Duran made an online purchase of one of Point Two’s jockey-designed air vests. Eight hundred dollars got him the vest and an extra CO2 cartridge. The vest arrived just after Emerald’s meet ended, and the CO2 cartridges came the next day. Back in Northern California preparing for the start of the Fresno meeting Oct. 6, Duran had tried on the vest and saw directly how he would have to modify his saddle to attach the jacket.

“It feels comfortable. It’s not heavy, but it’s not that light,” said Duran, estimating the air jacket’s additional weight at less than a pound. “It just feels different. It doesn’t feel like a normal, padded vest, but like you have an extra vest on.”

Not long after trying his jacket for fit, Duran had a strap added to his saddle so the air-vest lanyard could be attached. On opening day at Fresno, Wednesday, Oct. 6, Duran quietly launched the air-jacket era in Thoroughbred racing. Duran rode four horses to a pair of second-place finishes, a fifth, and a seventh.

“I clipped on right before I go in the gate,” Duran said. “I just make sure horses are right and everything, and I’ll try to unclip it if I have to. All in all, everything was fine. When you tuck your colors into your pants, you notice it. It’s a little bulkier now, and it could be modified a little more to help with that.”

Duran’s fellow riders knew he was riding with an air jacket, but he said no one else has made a move to buy one. Racing authorities, at Fresno or anywhere else, haven’t done anything like establishing a framework for how the equipment might be used on a wider scale.

California requires riders to wear a vest that provides a minimum shock absorption rating of 5 as certified by the British Equestrian Trade Association, that covers the torso from the collarbone to a line level with the hip, and that weighs less than two pounds. There is nothing codified anywhere yet about a safety vest that fills with air, and to Duran, no one has a good reason to stop him from using one.

“I don’t care,” he said. “It just feels a little safer – and it’s my safety.”

A rider goes down; his jacket inflates

Paul Hart of the Republic of South Africa loses his seat as he jumps aboard Heartbreak Hill during the eventing competition at the World Equestrian Games earlier this month in Lexington, Ky. As Hart falls, the lanyard that connects his saddle to his air jacket’s CO2 cartridge pulls free, triggering the cartridge and inflating the jacket. A competition aid assists Hart with the detachable, inflated part of the jacket. Photos by Amy Dragoo.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Thoroughbred Times TODAY Names Ramon Dominguez Jockey of the Week

The 33-year-old rider guided dual champion Gio Ponti to victory in the Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes (G1) on Saturday at Keeneland Race Course. It was the fifth Grade 1 win of the year for Dominguez and his fifth career victory at the highest level aboard Gio Ponti. He also captured the Glowing Honor Stakes on Thursday with Stormy Publisher(Arg) and the Pebbles Stakes on Sunday with Aruna, both at Belmont Park.

Dominguez leads all jockeys by wins with 289 victories from 1,188 mounts and trails only John Velazquez in purse earnings for the year. Dominguez trails Velazquez by $154,955 with $13,090,166 in earnings through Tuesday.

Dominguez probably will get the call on Gio Ponti on November 6 at Churchill Downs, either in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) or Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1). Dominguez won the 2007 John Deere Breeders’ Cup Turf aboard Better Talk Now.
Thoroughbred Times TODAY
Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Michael Martinez holds out hope for adult stem cell treatment for spinal cord

Martinez suffered a severe spinal cord injury on Sept. 12 when he was thrown from his mount at Golden Gate Fields racetrack in California.

The horse landed on top of him; he suffered three crushed vertebrae and, possibly, a severed spinal cord.

After 11 hours of surgery, Martinez's doctor, David Seftel, his parents, his fiancée and agent tried to get him into a stem-cell treatment trial being run by the biotechnology company Geron.

Seftel contacted Dr. Richard Fessler at Northwestern University outside Chicago, one of seven planned treatment centers, but Fessler said Martinez, 24, wasn't eligible.

One reason is that a patient whose spinal cord is completely severed is automatically eliminated from consideration. Tests have been unable to prove if it was severed.

A Geron spokeswoman did not return a call Monday.

Still, Martinez holds out hope.

Seftel told the Daily News a German company, Xcell, is willing to treat Martinez with adult stem cells once they receive a high resolution scan of his spinal cord.

Meanwhile, he's undergoing extensive physical therapy.

"He's doing a lot better," Martinez's agent Dennis Patterson said. "Outside of being in a wheelchair, he's got a great attitude. He's joking around. He's able to feed himself, wheel himself around, hold his (newborn) daughter. We're exploring other options."

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Legislative committee defers decision on riders' vest rule

Legislators criticized putting the rules in place through Jan. 11 as an emergency and questioned whether the jockeys, exercise riders and others on horseback had been consulted sufficiently in developing the regulations.

The Administrative Regulation Review Subcommittee hearing is part of the monthslong legislative review process required to make the rules permanent.

The subcommittee plans to take up the issue again at its November meeting. The move to put off a decision followed lengthy testimony from members of the Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, which represents owners and trainers, and leaders of The Jockeys’ Guild.

The new rules would effectively require the vests for anyone on horseback at a track.

Susan Speckert, the commission’s general counsel, defended the use of the emergency regulations and said the commission made substantial efforts to involve the affected parties, noting that the work on the vest rule began in 2008 amid concerns from The Jockeys’ Guild about the previous rule.

Speckert said the commission initially delayed implementation of the rule because of concerns that enough vests wouldn’t be available. She also said an emergency regulation is justified by the chance that vests could prevent a life-altering injury while the regular rule is in the review process.

The deferral also covers proposed advertising regulations in the jockey rule that are opposed by the guild. The emergency regulation requires all terms for advertising on jockeys' pants to be provided in writing to the commission, which guild officials say could scare away potential sponsors.

Among its concerns, the guild wants the rule modified to make it easier for riders to have long-term deals for multiple races.

The new advertising rule stems from confusion seen at this year's Kentucky Derby between owners and jockeys over forms and revenue splits with a Dodge Ram sponsorship. Louisville Courier-Journal

Reporter Gregory A. Hall can be reached at (502) 582-4087.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Castanon Reaches 2,000th Career Win


            Trained by Donnie Von Hemel, Secessionist broke from post position seven and stayed steady in fourth before making his move on the final turn, going four wide to wear down Deadly Catch before taking the lead to win by 1½ lengths in 1:10.12 in the six-furlong maiden race.


            “I was hoping that I would get it done at Arlington, but now (that) I’ve got my whole family in Kentucky and I’ve been here for 15 years, it couldn’t get better than this,” Castanon said. “To be at Keeneland, it’s such a nice place to get it done.” 


            A resident of Shepherdsville, Kentucky, Castanon began his riding career in his native Mexico before coming to the United States. His first win came aboard She’s the World at Agua Caliente in 1989. Castanon estimated that he won approximately 200 races in Mexico that are not included in his official record. 


            The victory marked the 53rd Keeneland win for Castanon, who plans to ride here for the remainder of the meeting. It didn’t take him long to start on the road to win No. 3,000. He won on his next mount, Caleb’s Posse, in the third race, also for Von Hemel.


            After the victory, members of the Keeneland jockey colony congratulated Castanon in the winner’s circle.  Keeneland Communications Department

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Dominguez Named Thoroughbred Times TODAY Jockey of the Week

Dominguez, 33, leads all North American jockeys by wins with 278 this year throughTuesday and trails John Velazquez in earnings by $408,730. If Dominguez finishes atop both categories he would be the first jockey to do so since Chris McCarron in 1980.

In the seven days ended October 6, Dominguez led all riders in earnings with $683,383 thanks mostly to winning the $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes (G1) aboard Haynesfield.

While Dominguez regularly piles up wins at the New York Racing Association tracks, the earnings title probably will come down to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships on November 5-6. The Venezuela native has won one Breeders’ Cup race, capturing the John Deere Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) in 2004 with Better Talk Now.

In addition to Haynesfield, Dominguez’s possible Breeders’ Cup mounts this year include champion Gio Ponti and Grade 1 winners Check the Label and Boys At Toscanova.  Thoroughbred Times TODAY


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