10/01/2014 2:31PM

Hovdey: Following the bouncing jockeys

Barbara D. Livingston
Kent Desormeaux suffered multiple injuries when he kicked by his mount She's a Big Winner before Sunday's eighth race at Santa Anita.

It’s fall. Literally. And last weekend high-profile jockeys were hitting the ground like hundred-pound leaves – hard, harder, and hardest of all.

Kent Desormeaux, who at 44 is in the midst of another miracle rebirth, was unseated from the 2-year-old filly She’s a Big Winner during the post parade of the eighth race at Santa Anita Park on Sunday afternoon. This is not an unusual occurrence, especially with a first-time starter. A rider normally survives such a moment with nothing more than bruised pride.

In this case, however, Desormeaux thought of his filly’s welfare before his own. He clung to a rein as he tumbled, in an attempt to keep her from running loose and risking possible injury. For his noble effort he was kicked in the chest, suffering a bruised and partially collapsed lung and a bruised and fractured rib.

“I’d been wanting to find a horse for Kent to ride and kind of hand-picked her as a filly with a future,” said Peter Eurton, who trains She’s a Big Winner. “I was told there was a couple of kids playing soccer with a can on the apron near the rail, which could have spooked her. She’d never reared before in her life.

“By the time I got to Kent, he was doubled over and already in a lot of pain,” Eurton added. “The filly was up and trotting away. Kent was mad at himself, which was understandable. But he tried to do the right thing by the filly. I felt just terrible for him.”

While Desormeaux was due to be released from the hospital on Tuesday, Rajiv Maragh went home the day before with a surgically repaired right arm that was fractured on Saturday during the running of the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park. Maragh went down when his mount, Wicked Strong, tripped over the back heels of Moreno. There was a hearing scheduled on Wednesday before the Belmont Park stewards to determine if Junior Alvarado, Moreno’s rider, should pay some kind of price for Maragh’s broken arm. As for Wicked Strong, the colt finished the course and pulled up okay.

Not long before the Gold Cup, Maragh was on top of the world after winning the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic aboard Main Sequence. Trainer Graham Motion was in the director’s room enjoying a post-race celebration as the horses in the Gold Cup made their way down the long Belmont backstretch.

“I was standing with Rajiv’s wife and family,” Motion said. “The whole thing was kind of hard to believe, to go in half an hour from one extreme to the other. I went to see him on Sunday, and he was in as good a spirits as could be expected. Thank God he’s all right.”

Replacement jockeys are already circling to climb aboard Main Sequence, who preceded his Hirsch with wins in the Sword Dancer and United Nations, and looms as the top U.S. contender for the Breeders’ Cup Turf. For his part, Motion is willing to wait until Maragh has a more definitive prognosis.

“It’s a longshot, but I do want to give him a chance to see where he’s at in the next couple of weeks,” Motion said. “The disappointing thing is the rapport he has with this horse. He’s done an extraordinary job, and figured him out very quickly.”

There is little doubt that rival agents were speed-dialing Jerry Hollendorfer and Richard Mandella before Mike Smith even hit the ground at the top of the stretch in the Rodeo Drive Stakes at Santa Anita, run 75 minutes after the Gold Cup.

Smith had just ridden Beholder to victory in the Zenyatta Stakes for Mandella, setting her up for a defense of her title in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, and in the next race on the card he was riding the unbeaten Shared Belief for Hollendorfer in the Awesome Again, their final prep for the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Smith went flying from John C. Mabee winner Moulin de Mougin when the filly got her left foreleg hooked by the right hind of a veering Queen of the Sand with less than a quarter of a mile to go.

“There was a shift of horses from the inside,” Smith said. “But that was all right because I wasn’t going to let her run until we straightened away. Then they shifted again. I didn’t anticipate that.”

Both horse and rider skidded across the grass. Smith was quickly on his feet, while Moulin de Mougin did a Wicked Strong and ran off after the field.

“I couldn’t see out of one eye,” Smith said. “Finally everything started to focus and I knew I was okay.”

Smith, who is 49, spent all of 10 seconds in the first aid station then sprinted through the crowd to the jockeys’ room to prepare for the Awesome Again.

“I wanted to get back there while the adrenalin was still running, before they took me off,” he said.

Later, after Smith had ridden Shared Belief to a hard-fought win over Fed Biz, the rider was able to take a more precise physical inventory. Showered and nearly dressed, he reached down slowly to tie his shoe. It was painful to watch.

“Now it’s starting to really hurt here,” Smith said, touching the muscle above his left hip. “The shoulder will be next, then the elbow.”

Nevertheless, Smith was back to work on Sunday, winning with two of his three mounts. One of them came in the eighth.

“I heard something happen behind me in the post parade,” Smith said.

It was Desormeaux, dumped and then kicked.

“I might have been hurting,” Smith said, “but I was a whole lot luckier than him.”

Chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Saw good news about Rajiv... Bandages and stitches gone, may be ready in 3 weeks.
Cliff Amyotte More than 1 year ago
similar to Cink in the Armour
Cliff Amyotte More than 1 year ago
Hey Hov your an award winning writer but, " follow the bouncing jockey's" a bit dicey and bush league.......sorry buddy.
Forego137 More than 1 year ago
Good to hear no one seriously hurt and will live to race and ride again. Jock's are one tuff athletes and have ice in their veins. One ruff weekend for jock's and equine
Chuck Berger More than 1 year ago
I'm sure Jay was not making light of the "bouncing jockeys." It is a very dangerous profession. Probably more dangerous than any other sport. As someone who worked on the backstretch and owned racehorses, I have seen some tragic accidents and deaths. Sidney Cole and Roy Gilbert in New York come quickly to mind. They were both genuinely nice guys. Arturo Vallejo who rode in Mexico and New Mexico for really small purses was another who died well before his time. And, if a jock rides chilly or scared so be it. When you get hurt physically enough times, it's bound to affect you mentally.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The entire weekend of racing was like a Wild West show! Thankfully, there were no fatalities for humans or equines. How can anyone say the TBs and jocks aren't "real" athletes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
-JG not anon:(
Jim Fields More than 1 year ago
Riders all know that when they climb on top of that horse, it could be the last one they ride, some resort to drug use to maintain that courage, some don't. They also have a lot of adrenalin running thru their veins after they are legged up. Some riders ride scared all of the time, most don't, but, a jock would be lieing if he said he had never ridden scared. most jocks that ride scared try to get outside as soon as possible so as to avoid certain situations down inside. This last week certainly showed the racing public how dangerous it is to be a jockey. Fortunately nothing really serious. I maintain that Mike Smith would have used different tactics with Shared Belief, in the Awesome Again, had he not went down the race before. He still won in spite of Espinoza.
Jason Hart More than 1 year ago
I agree with everything you said, except the last sentence. Mike didn't even have an option of tactics to use in the Awesome Again. He was in the 3 hole and Victor was in the 2 hole. He got floated wide not even a hundred yards from the gate. He didn't go wide by choice or because he went down the race before. He was trying to sit right off the pace or pressure Fed Biz early so he didn't get an easy lead. Mike had absolutely zero opportunity to even come close to getting near the rail. You do raise some valid points otherwise....
Marvin Friedman More than 1 year ago
Bouncing Jockeys? Ahahahaaaaaa oh that's rich.The sight of those little munchkins caroming off the track makes me laugh at the thought .Maybe this isn't the article that makes most pro athletes hold the press in such contempt ,but it sure won't endear any RIDER to any writer.I have nothing but respect for any human who is willing to put his or her life on the line on a dailey basis for my amusement.Can you say the same thing ,Mr.Hovdey? Totally insensitive , try to think before you write something so callous next time
Pagani Zonda More than 1 year ago
The man is married to an Ex Jockey.....I think he gets it..
Jason Hart More than 1 year ago
Um....... You might wanna scroll down to the comment by Mikey and see the reply from Mr. Hovdey. Overreact much?
liljock More than 1 year ago
Yes, it was a rough week for some top jockeys in the U.S.
Amy Hurley More than 1 year ago
Best wishes for speedy recoveries to all these jocks, and Nic Juarez, who was injured in a spill at Monmouth. It certainly was a horrible weekend for jockeys. Thankfully, they were not injured more seriously, and the horses involved seem relatively okay as well.