03/04/2005 12:00AM

Nothing funny about this injury


ARCADIA, Calif. - Someone who should know once said that for a good jockey there is never a good time to get hurt. There are always opportunities that will be missed.

So it was for David Flores, the stylish, 37-year-old veteran who was supposed to be aboard Breeders' Cup Mile winner Singletary in the Frank E. Kilroe Mile and Lundy's Liability in the Santa Anita Handicap on Saturday, and then depart for Tokyo next week for a potentially lucrative two months under contract to a top Japanese trainer.

Instead, Flores toured the morning workouts Friday at Santa Anita sporting a cast on his left arm, the byproduct of a frightening spill the previous Saturday that claimed the lives of two horses.

"I watched the tapes of the race," Flores said. "I am very lucky to be here."

Flores was part of a chain reaction disaster that occurred at the three-eighths mark of the six-furlong eighth race on Feb. 26, an event for $20,000 claimers. The accident was triggered by a fatal leg fracture sustained by Glen Canyon, under Julio Garcia. Indiaman, ridden by Alex Bisono, tumbled over Glen Canyon and snapped his neck, then Bornwithit and Flores hit the pile.

"I went flying over Julio, and I think I went pretty far," Flores said. "I put my arms out in front of me and I landed pretty even. I thought I was okay. Then I rolled, and I knew when I got hit by the other horse. There was nothing but pain in my elbow."

The other horse was Grey Misty, ridden by Rene Douglas, who managed to hurdle the fallen Flores without hitting him flush. Even so, a glancing blow from a Thoroughbred hoof can play havoc with human flesh and bone. Especially the funny bone.

"Rene did a great job," Flores said. "It could have been much, much worse. But I knew something was not good. My arm was loose, so I picked it up and held it to my belly. I couldn't move my hand, nothing."

As anyone who has banged into a door jamb knows, there is nothing the least bit amusing about the funny bone. At that point of the human anatomy, behind the elbow joint, the ulna nerve runs perilously close to the skin, and when struck it pinches hard against the end of the arm bone descending from the shoulder. That bone is called the humerus, which obviously is how some twisted first-year med student hundreds of years ago came up with funny bone. Hardy-har-har.

In Spanish, "funny bone" translates as "hueso de la alegria," but what Flores said was probably unprintable. It was awhile before the painkillers took hold.

"The doctor tried to put it back into place, like three times, and it didn't work," Flores said. "So he knew something was not right in there. They had to do surgery to fix the ligaments and take out a couple of bone chips. It was not major, but it was kind of torn up."

Flores was told he would need five to six weeks to recover. Jockeys, of course, tend to heal in direct proportion to how badly they want to go back to work.

"Japan is on hold for now," Flores said. "Right now I just want to take it easy and let it heal. Once I'm ready, I can get fit in a couple of weeks. And who knows? Maybe I'll come back and there will be a Derby horse waiting for me."

'Deadwood' comes to Arcadia

Santa Anita patrons were greeted this weekend by the scowling countenance of actor Ian McShane glaring down from a multi-story poster attached to the grandstand facade, as well as similar banners in the paddock and an array of signs in the eastern infield bearing the message, "Deadwood."

As product placements go, this might be considered unusual. Santa Anita's grounds are normally decorated with corporate placements for Pepsi, American Airlines, and Grey Goose Vodka. When entertainents are advertised, they are usually of the benign, family brand, such as "Seabiscuit," "Racing Stripes," or "The American Dream Derby."

"Deadwood" is definitely not traditional family entertainment, unless your family name is Earp, Younger, or James. The HBO series "Deadwood," which begins its second season Sunday night, is the creation of David Milch, a vigorous horseplayer and long-suffering owner who has hit big-race home runs with such runners as Gilded Time, Tuzla, and Val Royal.

In its wisdom, HBO's marketing team decided Santa Anita might be a cool place to publicize the season debut, what with the connection to gambling, horses, and the occasional whiff of foul language. To that effect, 3,000 faux gold nuggets were scattered in the infield on Santa Anita Handicap day. Four of them were redeemable for an actual ounce of gold, with lesser baubles for the rest.

For everyone else, the prize is the second season, and a fresh pool of "Deadwood" corruption, violence, and desperate frontier romance in which to wallow. Santa Anita management certainly does not endorse the lifestyles or behaviors depicted by the series - except for maybe wishing the pliable E.B. Farnum was a racing commissioner - but it must be pointed out that "Deadwood" does offer practical lessons for the proud operation of any entertainment establishment.

Or, as McShane's character, saloon owner Al Swearengen, pointed out, "There, now that's how you scrub a #%*&!# bloodstain!"