10/29/2005 12:00AM

Jockey dies from injuries


Jockey Michel Lapensee died late Friday night from injuries suffered when he fell from his mount in last Monday's ninth race at Suffolk Downs. He was 58.

Originally from Montreal, Quebec, Lapensee was a 30-year veteran of racing in his adopted home of New England, winning his first race at Blue Bonnets in his hometown and his first U.S. race at Green Mountain in Vermont in 1967.

The accident occurred when his mount, Mecke's Money, suffered a compound fracture approaching the three-eighths pole of the $4,000 claiming race. Lapensee was thrown to the track and stepped on by trailing horses. Mecke's Money was euthanized.

Surgeons at Massachusetts General Hospital attempted to relieve pressure on his brain, but subsequent scans indicated severe damage and no activity. His family, including his wife, Maureen, and son, Michel Jr., was at his side when he was taken off life-support.

While never associated with any star stakes horses, Lapensee amassed 2,678 wins while riding in slightly more than 20,000 races. His best year came in 1984 when he guided the filly Nastica and the colt Sheer Ice to 10 stakes wins at Suffolk, Rockingham Park, and Calder.

In the past decade, weight and heart troubles forced him into short retirements, but he managed to work his way back to riding, the first time through a disciplined diet and the other time by quitting smoking.

He rode regularly for owner-trainers Richard and Mary-Ann Fruzzetti, who raced several hard-knocking old-timers. He often teamed with their gelding Playing Politics, who at 16 matched a record by being one of the oldest horses to win at a major racetrack in 1998.

"I asked him the other day how old he was and why he would still be out there on the track," said jockey Clifford Dooley, who rode in Lapensee's final race. "He said, 'I love it. I love it more than anything.' Thankfully he went doing the thing he loved so much."

Lapensee was honored with a moment of silence at Suffolk on Saturday as jockeys, valets, racing officials and other racetrack employees gathered in the winner's circle prior to the first race.

Funeral arrangements were pending Saturday afternoon.

The accident led the Suffolk jockeys to call for a paramedic to be part of the track ambulance crew, rather than an emergency medical technician. Paramedics have more training than emergency medical technicians. The track met the jockeys' request, and canceled racing Wednesday to address safety concerns.