05/06/2011 3:30PM

Louisiana Downs jockey's fast return a 'miracle'


In February, it looked like jockey Don Simington might not make the early part of the Louisiana Downs meet. The winner of the last three titles at the Bossier City, La., track, he suffered the “roughest” injuries of his career in a spill at Delta Downs. Simington broke nine ribs and his collarbone when his mount clipped heels and fell, and he also ruptured his spleen and punctured a lung.

Simington said his doctors did not expect him to resume riding by the start of the Louisiana Downs meet last Friday, but he was cleared for competition last month. Simington’s first mount back came at Evangeline Downs on April 29.

“I talked to a lot of people, doctors, and they thought there was no way I could be back as soon as I am,” said Simington, 48. “I’m a walking miracle.”

Simington, who spent eight days in the hospital, said he prayed for a quick healing. He had to walk for a month following the Feb. 10 spill. Simington then put himself through his own rehabilitation and fitness program that in the later stages included running stairs in the grandstand at Louisiana Downs. He started getting back on horses 10 weeks after the spill.

“I’m doing really good,” he said Friday morning. “It was rough for a while, but I’m back in action. I’ve had a lot of good response from people I’ve always rode for in the past, and I’m also riding for some new people. It seems like I have a lot of good business right now. I’m excited.”

Simington, who was the second-leading rider at Delta at the time of the spill, has won more than 2,800 races in his career. He has long been based in Louisiana.

Quinonez nearing 3,000 wins

Jockey Luis Quinonez rode two winners Thursday night at Lone Star Park to move closer to a milestone. Quinonez was sitting on 2,994 career Thoroughbred wins heading into the races Friday. He has a good chance to reach the 3,000 mark by Sunday.

“With a little bit of luck, I can do it this weekend, maybe,” Quinonez said Friday. “No pressure.”

Quinonez, 44, scored his first career win May 10, 1989, at Canterbury. He would win five consecutive titles at the track between 1995 and 1999 and has also won titles at Oaklawn Park and Remington Park. Quinonez is the older brother of jockeys Alonso Quinonez, who is based at Hollywood Park, and Belen Quinonez, who is riding at Will Rogers Downs.

Among the top horses Luis Quinonez has ridden are Brownie Points, Going Ballistic, and Maysville Slew. His mounts have earned more than $47 million.

Turf features in Louisiana, Texas

The turf course will be the site of the best races on the card at both Louisiana Downs and Lone Star on Sunday.

Ready Interest, who began her career in Southern California, will meet winners for the first time in the fourth race at Louisiana Downs. The first-level allowance turf sprint for fillies and mares carries a $17,500 claiming option. Ready Interest comes into the about five-furlong race off a win at a similar distance at Fair Grounds. Quincy Hamilton has the mount for trainer Chris Candies.

In the ninth race at Lone Star, the Dallas Keen-trained Unbridled’s Heart invades from Keeneland. He will make his first start on the grass in the first-level allowance at 7 1/2 furlongs on turf and will be ridden by Erik McNeil. Unbridled’s Heart’s dam, Wild Heart Dancing, was a multiple graded stakes winner on the grass. ◗ Lone Star puts on its annual Mother’s Day diamond dig Sunday, when the first 500 women through the gate get a shot to unearth a $2,500 diamond from the racetrack. The dig takes place right alongside the winner’s circle following the races. The promotion has traditionally helped draw a large Mother’s Day crowd to Lone Star.