07/20/2012 3:26PM

Hastings: Hamel pain free after successful knee surgery


VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Jockey Richard Hamel was all smiles after working Madeira Park a half-mile in 46.60 seconds Thursday. It wasn’t just the way the 3-year-old filly worked that had Hamel in such good spirits. A couple of months ago Hamel thought his career might be over. Plagued by arthritic knees, Hamel said he was in too much pain to continue riding. Following successful surgery, Hamel was back working horses a couple of weeks ago and is accepting mounts for next Friday. The last time he rode was on May 21.

“They went in and scraped the arthritis out and right now it feels great,” said Hamel. “They basically just went in and cleaned it up.”

Hamel was the leading rider at Hastings in 2010 and 2011. He was pretty depressed when he was forced to quit riding.

“I thought I was pretty much done,” he said. “They had been into the knee three times, and it was at the point where I thought they just couldn’t do anything more to help it. The surgeon said there was quite a bit of arthritis on the outside part of the knee, and he cleaned it up pretty good. The bump that was on the side of my leg is gone now.”

Hamel has worked hard to get back into riding shape and he feels he’s made enough progress to be one of the top riders at Hastings again.

“The training I have done is working very well,” he said. “I am getting stronger every day, and the most important thing is the knee doesn’t hurt.”

Hamel wasn’t sure about the long-range prognosis for the knee.

“The doctor said it should be good for a while,” he said. “I can cortisone it because I can’t do any more damage to the joint.”

The time off had Hamel wondering what he would do when the time came that he wouldn’t be able to ride.

“Honestly, I was scared to death,” said Hamel. “There is nothing I want to do more than ride, and I’m not ready to quit riding. I really hadn’t thought about the future but it is definitely something I have to start thinking about.”

McCarthy weighing options

With B.C. Cup Day coming up Aug. 6, there aren’t any stakes races for American-breds to run in until mid-August. Older fillies and mares don’t have anywhere to run until Sept.  3 in the $50,000 six-furlong Derby Bar & Grill Ladies Express. The next middle-distance race for fillies and mares on the calendar is on Sept.  9 in the 1 1/8-mile Delta Colleen. The Delta Colleen is one of the five stakes supporting the Grade 3, $200,000 British Columbia Derby.

Trainer Tracy McCarthy was weighing her options with Overvalued who set the pace before giving way grudgingly in the stretch to lose by a nose and a head behind Caged Mistress and Wando Woman in the $50,000 Strawberry Morn last Sunday.

Her choices are the $50,000 Mademoiselle at Northlands Park on Aug. 6 or the $65,000 Distaff at Emerald Downs on Aug. 19.

McCarthy likes the idea of the short 2  1/2-hour trip to Emerald Downs. Overvalued’s owner, Ole Nielsen is looking towards Northlands Park, however.

“You just can’t take the Albertan out of him,” said McCarthy, referring to Nielsen, who grew up in Edmonton.

Last year they shipped Overvalued to Northlands for the Northlands Oaks three days before the race, but she came down with a virus and was scratched. McCarthy and Neilson haven’t decided when they would send Overvalued to Northlands again.

“We can tranquilize her if we go more than a week before the race,” said McCarthy. “She can get worked up, and going right on top of the Oaks last year may have had something to do with her getting sick. She is a sound horse and doing everything right, so we may as well run her instead of sitting around for two months waiting for a race.”

Trainer Dave Forster is also taking a road trip to Edmonton.

He is looking at the $50,000 Northland Oaks for Madeira Park on Aug. 3, the $50,000 Don Fleming for Senor Rojo on Aug. 6, and the Madamoiselle for Heidi Maria.

Senor Rojo won the $75,000 Speed to Spare going 1 3/8 miles at Northlands last year. He is coming off a third-place finish in the $50,000 Lieutenant Governors’ on July 2.

Heidi Maria had a rough trip in the Strawberry Morn, and Madeira Park finished third behind Evelyn’s Dancer in the Supernaturel on July 7.

“What are you going to do?” said Forster. “If it goes well I just might keep going east or south.”

According to jockey agent Gord Rumble, Hamel will be riding all three of the Forster horses at Northlands.

Rider Skelly missing

Jockey Richard Skelly hasn’t been seen since he booked off his mounts July 1, and his good friend jockey agent Drew Forster was concerned enough to file a missing persons claim with the police last Monday.

Skelly was staying at trainer Jim Brown’s house when he disappeared.

“Jim came home from the track one morning and he was gone,” said Forster. “I thought he might have gone to Emerald Downs but nobody has seen him there. We are all very concerned.”