11/28/2008 12:00AM

Back from injury, Perrodin tracks a milestone

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NEW ORLEANS - After losing nearly a year to a freak accident, jockey E.J. Perrodin is back riding horses at Fair Grounds and closing in on his 3,000th career victory.

On Nov. 23, 2007, Perrodin, then 50 years old, was warming up No No Bad Kitty on the clubhouse turn at Fair Grounds when she reared back and fell, crushing Perrodin.

With his pelvis broken and his liver bleeding, Perrodin spent a week in a New Orleans hospital before going back to Shreveport to be cared for by his wife.

"It was like she had two kids, me and my son Devin," said Perrodin. "She stuck with me, like a great friend and wife."

Perrodin healed slowly, getting out of the wheelchair in late February, and walking with the aid of a walker. At the March 12 benefit thrown at the Fair Grounds by fellow jockey Robby Albarado, he struggled with the walker, and moved with a great deal of pain.

"It's been great to see all the caring - that's part of what made me want to come back," said Perrodin. "At some stages it looked like it wasn't going to be good for me, and the doctors held me back because the bones wouldn't quite heal."

Perrodin returned to the races on Aug. 10, at Louisiana Downs, needing 14 wins to reach 3,000, and he got 9 wins from 55 mounts. Through Friday, he has 2 wins from 11 mounts at Fair Grounds.

Perrodin rides exclusively for Patrick Mouton, and has no need for a jockey agent. Now 51 years old, he is considering staying in the saddle for the foreseeable future.

"Before the setback, I was planning on retiring after this year, but me being a hard-head and still enjoying what I do, I am thinking to keep going," said Perrodin. "You've got to be really strong and fit, and I feel like I still have a year or two or three."

Though he is riding only a few races a day, Perrodin remains upbeat about his business.

"It's been fun trying to get to 3,000, and because of the setback I am going to appreciate it more now," said Perrodin. "Last year it was just a number. Now I've got a lot of people to thank for getting there."

Stidham off to a hot start

Trainer Mike Stidham is off to a roaring start. After winning once and finishing second six times from his first 12 starters, Stidham's horses have begun finding their way to the winner's circle with regularity.

From 18 starters, Stidham has saddled 4 winners, 6 second-place finishers, and 3 thirds.

Stidham believes that his emphasis on the Fair Grounds is paying dividends.

"We send horses here the minute the gate opens," said Stidham, who owns a house less than 100 yards from the clubhouse turn.

"We have horses for the conditions, and they are running good," said Stidham. "When you get here early and work horses over the track, it pays off."

Stidham spends the summer in Chicago, based at Arlington, then comes to New Orleans for the winter.

"We love this meet, and we're glad to get home," said Stidham.