03/13/2008 11:00PM

Minor cracks in Bejarano's back


ARCADIA, Calif. - Rafael Bejarano, the leading rider at Santa Anita, will be out two to four weeks with small fractures to two vertebrae in his back, the result of being thrown in an accident in the final race on Thursday at Santa Anita, his agent, Joe Ferrer, said Friday.

"He should be able to ride in a month," Ferrer said after he and Bejarano left the office of Dr. Dan Capen, a noted orthopedist and horse owner who has treated many jockeys over the years. "It could have been worse."

According to Ferrer, Capen looked at an MRI taken Thursday night at Arcadia Methodist Hospital and "said the fifth and sixth vertebrae touched from the impact, and the fifth and sixth vertebrae have cracks in them," Ferrer said.

"They didn't crack through, just in the front of them," Ferrer said.

Capen "put a brace on Rafael to keep him stable," Ferrer said.

"We're looking at weeks. If it was cracked all the way through, it would have been harder to stabilize," Ferrer said he was told by Capen.

"Dr. Capen will look at Rafael in another week, but he said he should be out, tops, four weeks, and we could be looking at maybe two or three weeks. He said Rafael is young and he'll heal fast."

Bejarano, 25, has won 60 races this meet, including the Santa Anita Handicap on Heatseeker and the San Vicente Stakes with Georgie Boy. He was scheduled to ride Georgie Boy in the Grade 2, $200,000 San Felipe Stakes on Saturday, in which Georgie Boy was the 9-5 morning-line favorite. He was to be replaced by Michael Baze.

Baze originally was scheduled to ride Go for Cover, but was let out of that commitment by Adam Kitchingman, who trains Go for Cover. Martin Pedroza was named to ride Go for Cover.

Baze's agent, Nick Cosato, asked to be let off, Kitchingman said.

"Michael Baze doesn't get that many chances to ride a horse who might go to the Derby, and my horse is not going to the Derby, so we let him off the horse," Kitchingman said.

Kathy Walsh, the trainer of Georgie Boy, said she "had to shut my phone off" to escape agents seeking to put their rider on Georgie Boy to replace the injured Bejarano.

"Thank God Rafael's injury wasn't more serious," Walsh said. "Hopefully things will work out well for everyone."

Bejarano was thrown hard to the ground when his mount, Parisian Art - a $32,000 maiden-claimer trained by Doug O'Neill and making his second career start - collapsed at the eighth pole and died of an apparent heart attack. Parisian Art led early, then faded quickly, and was trailing the field while being eased by Bejarano when he went down. Bejarano landed head first. Although he was able to move his arms and legs, Bejarano did not stand or sit up, and was removed from the track on a stretcher.

Bejarano was first taken to Arcadia Methodist Hospital, where he underwent an MRI, according to Ferrer. Bejarano was released shortly after midnight on Friday morning, according to Santa Anita's publicity department.

Capen is best known for putting Chris McCarron back together after the Hall of Fame rider sustained multiple leg fractures in an accident at Santa Anita in 1986. The following spring, McCarron won the Kentucky Derby on Alysheba.

Capen owns several horses in partnership, most notably Ever a Friend, who won the Grade 1 Kilroe Mile on March 1.

Harty hopes sixth time is the charm

Forest Echoes cost $900,000 when he was purchased as a 2-year-old in training one year ago.

"He's a smashing-looking horse," said his trainer, Eoin Harty.

Trouble is, his races haven't been quite so pretty. Not that they have been bad, but five races into his career, Forest Echoes is still looking for that elusive first win.

He will be among the top contenders on Sunday in the eighth race, a six-furlong sprint for 3-year-old maidens. Forest Echoes has finished third in two similar spots this meet.

"I thought he had plenty of talent, but he hasn't shown it," Harty said. "I keep expecting him to walk through the front door, but he hasn't done it."

Harty also sends out the first-time starter Shihaab in the same race.

"If I was a betting man, I might take a wait-and-see approach on him," Harty said.

Other leading contenders in the eighth race are Lotacat, who finished second despite a troubled trip in his debut last month, and first-time starter Odometer, who has a series of fast works, most notably from the gate, for trainer Jeff Mullins.

Signature Move still ailing

After Signature Move won an allowance race at Santa Anita on Jan. 4, trainer Eric Guillot held out hope that the Vindication colt would develop into a Kentucky Derby prospect. Guillot sent Signature Move to Fair Grounds for the Risen Star Stakes on Feb. 9, but Signature Move finished 10th of 11 and has not raced since, bypassing preps such as the Sham Stakes earlier this month, and the San Felipe.

"He's not 100 percent healed from a lung infection," Guillot said. "I was getting Derby fever trying to push the deal. He bled in a work the other day, and then he backed off his feed. I want to give him plenty of time. To me, he's still the real deal."

Sutherland featured on HRTV

Jockey Chantal Sutherland, who has been based at Santa Anita this winter and will return to Woodbine next month, will be the featured guest on HRTV's popular "Across the Board" show, which airs at 8 p.m. Eastern on Monday.

"Across the Board" is co-hosted by Scott Hazelton and Becky Witzman. Fans can submit questions to Sutherland via e-mail atcomments@hrtv.com.

Sutherland, 32, has won 10 races this meet, most with longshots. She finished seventh in the standings last year at Woodbine in Canada, where she was twice named that country's Sovereign Award-winning apprentice jockey.

- additional reporting by Brad Free