07/23/2009 12:00AM

Bejarano surgery a success

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Benoit & Associates
Jockey Rafael Bejarano could be back riding in two to three weeks with a protective mask on his face.

DEL MAR, Calif. - Jockey Rafael Bejarano, injured in a terrifying accident at Del Mar on Wednesday, underwent surgery early Thursday morning on his fractured left cheek and jaw. It went so well that he could be back in action by the middle of Del Mar's meeting next month, his agent, Joe Ferrer, said Thursday morning.

"They repaired it at 2 a.m. last night," Ferrer said. "Once the swelling goes down, and the pain goes away, he'll be able to ride with a mask. As long as the pain goes away, he can ride with a mask to protect his face. Hopefully, he'll be back riding in two to three weeks."

Bejarano was scheduled to ride Artiste Royal in the Grade 1, $350,000 Eddie Read Stakes on Saturday at Del Mar. Neil Drysdale, who trains Artiste Royal, on Thursday morning said no decision had yet been made on a replacement.

Bejarano was injured when his mount, Mi Rey, broke down badly and dropped the rider in the stretch run of the third race on the opening-day card, a six-furlong race for $10,000 claimers on Polytrack. Bejarano was taken to Scripps Memorial Hospital in nearby La Jolla. Ferrer said he expected Bejarano to be released from the hospital no later than Friday.

Bejarano's jaw was not as badly damaged as first feared. He did not need to have it wired shut, according to Ferrer.

"He'll have rubber bands holding it, so he'll be able to open his mouth and at least have soft foods, not be confined to just liquids," Ferrer said.

"His face looked like he went 15 rounds with Mike Tyson," Ferrer said. "He had a black eye, and the left side of his face was swollen."

X-rays did not reveal any fractures to his shoulder, another initial concern.

"He landed on the shoulder. It's sore, but there's nothing broken," Ferrer said. "He went down the first year they had Polytrack at Keeneland and he told me it doesn't give. You just hit and you stay there, like you stick into it. He said the same thing to me last night."

Mi Rey was racing prominently as the field turned into the stretch. Racing just off the rail, he broke down, tossing Bejarano. Bejarano appeared to be clipped by Senor Afortunado, who was rallying up in the inside under jockey Garrett Gomez and, being right behind Mi Rey, had no chance to avoid the fallen rider.

Ferrer said Bejarano "kind of blacked out, but then came to and sat up."

Bejarano, 27, was the leading rider at Del Mar last summer. He finished second at the recently concluded Hollywood Park meeting.

Mi Rey, 8, was euthanized because of the extensive injuries to his right front leg.

"He suffered a compound fracture of his right front fetlock," said Dr. Rick Arthur, the equine medical director for the California Horse Racing Board. "It was an injury that was not amenable to surgical repair."

Mi Rey was the second horse to be euthanized at Del Mar this summer. The maiden-claimer Mad for Plaid was euthanized after suffering a catastrophic fracture in a workout Sunday morning.