02/05/2011 10:05PM

Heap celebrates victory at home while recovering from injuries


ARCADIA, Calif. – The winning trainer in Saturday’s 10th race at Santa Anita had a good excuse for being absent.

Blake Heap is at home this weekend, recovering from injuries suffered last Sunday during his morning job as an outrider during training hours at Santa Anita.

On Saturday, Heap watched on his television as Circa’sgoldengear ($16.40) won an optional claimer for statebreds with a late rally. He was surrounded by a few friends during the race, Heap’s second win of the meeting.

“Everybody was hollering,” Heap said.

Heap has been home since Thursday, recovering from shoulder surgery and facial injuries.

Heap, 54, suffered a broken right shoulder, fractured orbital bones near an eye, and a broken nose when he was unseated from his pony while trying to catch a loose horse. The pony apparently fell on Heap during a spill.

Widely respected in the Southern California backstretch community for his horseback skills as an outrider, Heap has limited recollection of the accident.

“I would have to guess that the [loose] horse was running fast,” he said Saturday. “I reached and grabbed the rein. The only thing I can think [happened] is it turned the horse into me, and their legs crossed up and down they went.”

Last week, Heap underwent surgery to repair the severely broken shoulder.

“They said most shoulder surgeries take two hours,” he said. “Mine took 4 1/2 hours.”

Heap trains a small stable at Santa Anita. Last April, Heap won his first race as a trainer in nearly decade. During that time, he worked as an outrider and as an assistant to Wesley Ward when he has had horses in Southern California.

By next weekend, Heap is hoping to visit the barn, which has been directed by Rick Bassett, a friend and client of Heap’s.

“He wants to get back,” Bassett said. “He’s like a caged animal. That’s a good sign.”

Heap said he has a doctor’s appointment on Friday and then will think about returning to the stable. Work as an outrider will have to wait a while.
“I’m starting to feel a little bit better,” he said. “I’m getting off the pain medication. They were bothering me more than anything. I’m on my way back.”