04/10/2008 11:00PM

Apprentice Wade resumes riding


STICKNEY, Ill. - Lyndie Wade got shut out on Thursday's card at Hawthorne. The day still rated as a rousing success.

When Wade rode a horse named Saville Hotel to a fifth-place finish in the first race here on Thursday, it marked his first start since he went down in a terrifying spill last Nov. 30 at Hawthorne. Wade was knocked unconscious, and after being put into an induced coma, he didn't wake up for several days. But Wade's recovery came about amazingly fast, and after galloping horses for several weeks at Oaklawn Park, he got back to business at Hawthorne.

"I was surprised how comfortable I was on the first couple back," Wade said Friday afternoon. "I figured it'd feel a little weird at first. But I just took it as another day riding."

Wade, a 17-year-old apprentice from New Orleans, still doesn't remember anything about his spill; the first thing he can recall after going down was feeling cold as he rode in an ambulance from the hospital where he had gone for his initial recovery to the rehabilitation center to which he was transferred after his condition improved. That was 11 days later.

Wade faced the prospect of a potentially long and arduous rehab this year, but things worked out well. Wade's brain function improved rapidly, and in January, doctors gave him an excellent prognosis. He wound up at Oaklawn with his agent, Jay Fedor, in late February, and has been exercising horses for a month now.

"I'm just tickled to death to have him back in the room," said rider Randy Meier, who broke his arm when his horse fell over Wade's stricken mount. "He seems like a really super kid, and to have to go through something like that right off the bat, that's tough. I'm just glad to see him back healthy again."

Wade, who rides with a five-pound bug, will have his apprentice allowance at least through mid-November, and said he plans to stay in Chicago at least through then.

Meier looks forward to riding with son

Meanwhile, Meier himself is in the midst of a difficult meet here; through Thursday, he had notched just 4 wins from 105 mounts this spring. That's a stark contrast to the fall meet, where Meier was battling for leading rider at the time of his spill. Meier has missed a huge chunk of time during his long career with various injuries, and has talked before about having to prove himself all over again after every comeback.

"It was six weeks after I got hurt to the end of that meet, and I lost a lot of business," Meier said. "When I came back - it's happened like that every time - I always have to earn my business back."

Meier switched agents a few weeks ago, and now is represented by Oscar Sanchez, and his client list still is in flux. But Meier has bounced back from slow stretches in the past, and still hopes to ride side by side with his son, Brandon, sometime during the Arlington meet. Brandon Meier, who has been taken under the wing of trainer Wayne Catalano, had been scheduled to make his career debut as a jockey about a month ago at Gulfstream, but days before he was to ride in his first race, he injured an elbow when a horse he was exercising had a heart attack. Randy Meier said Brandon had torn ligaments in his elbow, but was back riding again.

"I'm not sure when he's going to be ready, but we're still shooting for Arlington," Meier said.

Coach Jimi Lee may be done racing

Jim DiVito said he still hasn't decided what to do with Coach Jimi Lee, who finished fifth in the Illinois Owners Stakes here on April 5. Coach Jimi Lee now has lost three straight starts, and DiVito grants the possibility that at age 8, his stable star may be slowing.

"He didn't winter well here," DiVito said. "I don't think I'm going to put him in any claiming races - let's put it that way."

DiVito said Coach Jimi Lee hasn't been back to the track since he came up empty last Saturday. He has not been retired, but the chance exists that he won't race again. "It's been a good run," said DiVito.

Coach Jimi Lee, who ran the fastest six furlongs ever recorded in Illinois when he set a Hawthorne track record of 107.20 in December 2003, has earned more than $923,000 during a long career as a top Midwest sprinter.

Home's the Best may try stakes

Lampoon, who was among the top Illinois-bred mares of 2007, was retired and bred this winter after sustaining a fractured sesamoid training at Hawthorne this past winter, but trainer Brian Williamson may have an able replacement in Home's the Best. Returning from a layoff of almost 11 months, Home's the Best won a two-turn Illinois-bred entry-level allowance race on Monday by four lengths. That ran her record to 2 wins from 4 starts, and Home's the Best turned in good second-place finishes in her two losses.

"I think she's definitely an Illinois-bred stakes horse at least," said Williamson, who trains Home's the Best for owner Nancy Vanier. "She's a real big, long-striding horse."

Williamson said he's considering Home's the Best for an Illinois-bred stakes race here on April 26, though time is somewhat short to make that spot. If Home's the Best is forced to pass, she still has an Illinois-bred second-level allowance race as an option, and she ran well last year over Arlington's Polytrack.

* There is no real feature on Sunday's card, with the highest-class fare an Illinois-bred entry-level allowance race.