11/08/2006 1:00AM

New role for Smith at Delta


Jockey Guy Smith was a constant presence in the winner's circle at Delta Downs during the 2004-2005 meet, when he won the title at the track by 37 wins. This year, however, he is working the meet in a whole new capacity. Smith is working as an agent, putting his riding career on hold as he heals from injuries sustained in a spill in April.

Smith, 37, shattered his C-7 vertebrae and broke his left shoulder during a race at Evangeline Downs when his mount broke down while contesting the pace, fell, and threw Smith.

"I'm not sure if I broke my neck on impact, or if a horse ended up getting on top of me," he said. "I'm not really sure what happened. I never was unconscious, but it's hard to keep track of everything that is going on, because it started and finished within a matter of seconds."

Smith underwent surgery to remove the shattered vertebrae and fuse others together. That injury has since healed, but a partial paralysis of his left hand is putting his riding career on hold. Smith said his doctors look for the paralysis to be temporary.

"They say the prognosis is good and that it's early in the injury," he said. "They say with nerves, it's a slow process. It takes a year to a year and a half. If I get healthy enough to ride, I definitely want to ride."

Smith said he feels he has a 50-50 chance to resume his riding career, which was going great guns just before the spill. He had won three of six stakes on the Louisiana Premier Night program at Evangeline in February, including the $150,000 Championship.

"That was the biggest night of my career," said Smith, who has won 1,414 races and $18 million in purses since he began riding in 1992.

Smith said he has enjoyed his new role this meet at Delta, the first track he has been at since the spill April 22. He represents jockeys Edwin Maldonado-Alicea, who is tied for second in the standings, and Sidney LeJeune Jr.

"Getting out there and getting involved again is good," he said. "Horse racing is my life."