09/01/2007 12:00AM

Paralyzed rider pays visit to Spa


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Andrew Lakeman, the jockey who was paralyzed from the chest down in a spill at Belmont Park in May, says he hopes to one day walk again and his ultimate dream is to train horses. Lakeman, 32, was a visitor to Saratoga on Saturday, where one of the horses he routinely galloped for trainer Allen Jerkens, Political Force, was to run in the Grade 1 Woodward.

"My main goal, or what got me through my rehab, was to get back here," Lakeman said while sitting in a wheelchair in Saratoga's turf terrace dining room. "I didn't want to miss this meet for the world. I'm so glad that I made it back for one of my favorite horses, Political Force, who is running in the Woodward. I galloped Political Force for the last three years."

Lakeman was injured in a spill at Belmont Park on May 25. He severed his spinal cord, fractured his sternum, suffered a punctured lung, and broke a couple of ribs. He was in the hospital for at least a month before beginning physical therapy.

Lakeman said he has finished the first stage of his rehabilitation and is doing outpatient therapy at St. Charles Hospital in Long Island. Lakeman said he intends to return to his native England for a vacation in a few weeks, but he wants to return to New York before the end of the year.

"My goal is I'd love to train," Lakeman said. "But when I come back right away I'm just going to work on my recovery and work on putting some owners together and try to accomplish my goal and train."

Though doctors have told Lakeman he will never walk again, Lakeman said he isn't giving up hope.

"I understand that they're coming up with a lot of new medicines; I'm not going to give up," Lakeman said. "They told me my chances are very slim but I'm not giving up faith. My spirit has kept me very strong through my whole recovery."

In the morning, Lakeman visited Jerkens's barn. Lakeman galloped many of Jerkens's top horses, including Teammate and Miss Shop.

"It was kind of emotional to come back this morning to see Allen," Lakeman said. "That was one of my biggest goals. It really brought a lot of tears to my eyes because the biggest thing I miss is the horses and working with Allen. He was very upset that I got hurt and it was just a great relief to be here."