Updated on 09/16/2011 8:09AM

For Eddie D., time to mend and reflect


DEL MAR, Calif. - Ever the gentleman, Eddie Delahoussaye was quick to recognize a lady in distress and allowed her to take his place in line.

Chivalry lives, even while awaiting a CT scan in the trauma unit of Scripps Hospital in La Jolla, where the rider was taken last Friday after a horrible fall on the Del Mar grass.

"She was having trouble with her pacemaker, and was starting to panic," Delahoussaye said. "I didn't think I was going to die, but I thought she had a chance of dying. She looked like she needed that scan a whole lot more than me."

By Monday morning, Delahoussaye was back at his Del Mar condo. He was still sore, head to toe, as he replayed what he could recall of the crash on the backstretch of the third race, for claimers worth $55,000 to $62,500. Delahoussaye was riding a 3-year-old gelding named Seeingisbelieving, a capable maiden in against winners for trainer Mike Machowsky.

Seeingisbelieving and Delahoussaye had five horses in front of them and three behind them as they turned onto the backstretch of the 1 1/16-mile race. That's when Seeingisbelieving snapped a cannon bone and dropped like a rock.

"Chris McCarron watched the films and told me I slid about 20 feet," Delahoussaye said. "I guess I was lucky I did, because the horse was sliding right behind me."

"I was behind Eddie," said Alex Solis, who rode Chory Four. "Just before it happened, I saw [Corey] Nakatani start to move on the outside. So I decided to follow him instead of Eddie's horse. If I didn't do that, I would have gone right over the top of him."

It could have been worse, for everyone but the horse. The injury to Seeingisbelieving was irreparable - at least in humane terms - and he was euthanized.

Delahoussaye said he sensed nothing amiss with Seeingisbelieving warming up for Friday's race, and he was traveling well right up to the moment the bone gave way. He had ridden the horse once before, in his last start at Hollywood Park on July 17, and finished second against winners under similar conditions.

Machowsky, who has been training a public stable for 12 years, said he had never had a horse fatally break down in a race before last Friday.

Three days later, he was still shaken.

"I ran a couple yesterday," Machowsky said. "It was a little tense. It can happen to anybody any time, especially if you run enough horses. But it's something I try to prevent. Every morning I go through my horses. If there's something questionable, we try to find out what's going on before taking any chances."

The loss of Seeingisbelieving is every bit as heartbreaking as the death of Go for Wand. And when 23-year-old Isiah Sala lost his life a year ago at Marquis Downs, he was taking the same risks as a 50-year-old superstar like Delahoussaye, who plies his trade on a national stage.

Still, we tend to pay more attention when the big trees fall. When a rider like Delahoussaye gets hurt, writers scramble for his bio, anticipating the end. They discover an intoxicating mix of five classics, seven Breeders' Cups, close to 6,500 winners, and Hall of Fame membership since 1993.

After 34 years in the saddle, Delahoussaye represents a level of excellence and integrity that is rare in any profession. He is a tireless advocate for the safety of his colleagues, who literally place their lives in the hands of the trainers who prepare their mounts. Seeingisbelieving could have been an example of a bad step on a good leg, no question. But that does not stop Delahoussaye from calling attention to the larger picture.

"Years ago, people would ice horses," Delahoussaye said. "They would use massage therapies, alcohol to tighten. And if they got too bad, they'd turn the horse out to give him a chance. So-called horsemen nowadays are saying they can't afford it, giving a horse that time. Well, if they can't afford it, they should get out of the game.

"If you're crazy enough to pay a million dollars for a horse, you should be smart enough to give your horse time to heal. Then maybe you'll have a chance to get your money back. But don't keep giving him medicine and more medicine, only covering up the ailments. The game is already dangerous enough without doing that."

Machowsky was at Delahoussaye's hospital bedside Friday night, worried sick that one of his horses might have just ended the career of an icon. Delahoussaye played it tough.

"Just put me on a good one when I come back," the rider said.

In reality, Delahoussaye will be taking stock as he mends over the next few weeks. He is already on record that 2002 is likely to be his last season.

If it is not, he will have to answer to his wife, Juanita.

"I'll go home this week and let my doctor have a good look at me," Delahoussaye said. "Right now, the way this body feels, I'm going to take some time off."

He has earned it. In the meantime, Delahoussaye will celebrate his 51st birthday on Sept. 21. Thank goodness.