09/08/2009 11:00PM

Burningham ready to go after spill


BOSSIER CITY, La. - Jockey Jeff Burningham joined the list of riders injured at Louisiana Downs in recent weeks when he was thrown to the ground at the start of last Saturday's first race. His mount stumbled badly at the start, unseating Burningham who was then stepped on.

Fortunately for the 37-year-old Canadian, the result was less serious than it looked and he is expected to be back at work this week after taking off his mounts Sunday to nurse some bumps and bruises. Pat Valenzuela, Lonnie Meche, and Rico Flores were injured in a spill Aug. 23.

Getting hurt while pursuing his vocation is nothing new to Burningham, but it was a non-racing injury that has proved to be the most serious.

"It was Feb. 4, 2008," Burningham said. "I was just ready to come back from an injury I suffered in a morning training accident the preceding October. While trimming a tree at my house, I fell and crushed my L1 vertebra. I had surgery to fuse my lower back with two rods. I was out of action for 16 months."

The injury is still evident in watching Burningham walk with a hitch to and from the paddock. But once in the saddle, Burningham's movement appear totally natural. He says riding races has been a form of occupational therapy, which has helped significantly in his recovery from the back injury.

"Especially with the large muscle groups," he said. "Riding has helped strengthen my legs and lower body quite a bit. I feel very comfortable when I am in the saddle. I'm getting stronger every day."

Burningham has taken advantage of the live mounts that have become increasingly available due to the rash of injured riders. He has ridden a recent hot streak to a top 10 position in the riders' ranks, winning with 36 of his 317 mounts at the current stand.

Some of those open mounts also will be taken by an influx of riders from Evangeline Downs, which closed its meet Monday.

Zimmerman will return Saturday

Jockey Ramsey Zimmerman will resume riding Saturday at Louisiana Downs after missing the past several days with a sprained knee. He was off his mounts Monday, while awaiting test results from doctors. Zimmerman worked horses Wednesday morning, according to his agent, Richard Price.

"We're good to go," he said.

Zimmerman has not ridden at Louisiana Downs since last Sunday. He is third leading jockey at the track, where he has won 48 races from 258 starts for earnings of $698,340. Zimmerman is named on horses in the first, fifth, sixth, ninth, and 10th races on Saturday.

* Friday's featured second race is an $12,000 optional claimer with an entry-level allowance condition attached. The one to beat is High Lion, who broke through with a convincing maiden score in her first start for new trainer Brian House in late July and narrowly missed in a spot similar to Friday's headliner in her last start.

* There are still a few spots available for Monday's Super Derby Golf Tournament at Stonebridge Golf Course. The event will benefit Chaplain Jimmy Sistrunk's Winner's Circle Church. There will be two flights beginning at 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. Interested parties should contact Terry Magee at (318) 752-6508.

- additional reporting by Mary Rampellini