06/09/2009 12:00AM

Douglas out of intensive care unit


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Injured jockey Rene Douglas has been moved out of the intensive care unit at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, and Douglas's overall health has continued to improve since he was hurt May 23 in the Arlington Matron Stakes. But while Douglas is regaining strength in his upper body - speaking, eating solid food, and moving without great discomfort - he still cannot move his legs because of a spinal injury.

On Saturday, Douglas was taken to a private room at Northwestern from the ICU, where he had been housed since undergoing a seven-hour back surgery early on May 24. Doctors originally had planned on moving Douglas to Northwestern's rehabilitation center two weeks after his surgery, but that move will not take place until sometime in the next week, according to a Douglas family friend, Doreen Razo, who was at Northwestern with Douglas and his wife, Natalie, on Tuesday.

"He's in excellent spirits," said Razo, the wife of Arlington jockey Eddie Razo, who is close to Douglas. "His pain level has dropped a lot. He's tired of being idle. He's ready for the next phase."

Douglas developed pneumonia after having surgery to repair broken vertebrae in his neck and to decompress and fuse vertebrae lower on his back, the injury that affected his spinal cord. Douglas fought off the pneumonia and was taken off a breathing tube last week, and outside of the lower-body paralysis, he has continued to make steady progress in his recovery.

Douglas was hurt when his mount, Born to Be, was forced out, clipped heels at the top of the stretch, fell awkwardly, and rolled over onto Douglas. Jockey Jamie Theriot is serving a 30-day suspension for fouling Born to Be while going for a hole on his mount, Sky Mom.

Life in the old boy yet

Step aside, youngsters: Silverfoot is back in the game.

While 10-year-old Better Talk Now was finishing third in the Manhattan Handicap at Belmont on Saturday, 9-year-old Silverfoot was making his first start of 2009 at Arlington in The Tin Man Stakes. He won it, and looked good enough in the process that Silverfoot might reasonably be aimed at the Arlington Million on Aug. 8 - exactly what trainer Dallas Stewart has in mind.

Stewart said Silverfoot, who returned to Churchill over the weekend, would next race on July 11 in the Arlington Handicap, but that "the real goal" of this summer campaign was a return to the Million, in which Silverfoot finished a close fourth despite a less-than-ideal trip in 2008.

Silverfoot does his best running in the stretch, but tends to come around horses on the far outside. Saturday, jockey Chris Emigh ducked toward the rail for racing room in midstretch, and with surprisingly rapid acceleration, Silverfoot closed quickly and got up by a neck. The competition was not the strongest, but the nine-furlong distance was shorter than Silverfoot's best, and the horse is likely to improve off the comeback run.

"It was a thriller watching him perform," said Stewart. "He seems good, doesn't seem tired, doesn't seem out of sorts at all right now."

Iowa Distaff next for Euphony

The $125,000 Iowa Distaff at Prairie Meadows rather than the $300,000 Fleur de Lis at Churchill Downs is the next likely spot for the Arlington Matron winner Euphony, who has won 8 of 10 career starts, and five in a row dating to July 2008.

Trainer Donnie Von Hemel pointed out that Euphony had traveled to Prairie Meadows to win the Prairie Meadows Oaks last September.

"It just looks like the right spot," Von Hemel said. "We did briefly look at the race at Churchill. No matter where you go there are going to be some good horses."

Von Hemel, meanwhile, got on a serious roll last week, and since June 1 at Arlington his stable has compiled a 5-2-1 record from 10 starts. The hot streak moved Von Hemel into a tie for third place among Arlington's leading trainers, with 11 victories at the meet. Von Hemel summered in Chicago years ago, but shifted his main operation to Arlington from Lone Star this year.

"No doubt, we've been pleased with the way it's gone so far," Von Hemel said. "But it's a long meeting, so you have to try and sustain it."

No ban for Alvarado

Junior Alvarado, atop the jockey standings entering this week's racing with 28 wins, has avoided a suspension after being disqualified from second to fourth in The Tin Man Stakes on Saturday, his agent, Oscar Sanchez, said Tuesday.

Alvarado's mount, Public Speaker, came over and bumped General Charley in deep stretch of the turf race, but since Public Speaker appeared to be tiring and Alvarado quickly corrected, he received no further penalty.