08/06/2007 11:00PM

Rainford done for the season after pair of concussions


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - A season that began in a blaze of promise for apprentice jockey Michelle Rainford has come to an abrupt end.

Rainford, 27, rode 95 winners last year in her first full campaign, including 10 during the final week of the meeting, to rank ninth in the standings here at Woodbine.

She already had 25 winners under her belt at this meeting, but, although she would not know it for six weeks, her season was effectively over after she was involved in a three-horse spill in the ninth race on June 21.

Rainford was taken to the hospital, where doctors apparently told her she had suffered a concussion.

That information did not register with a dazed Rainford, who woke up the next morning with soreness in a knee and hip and, believing that was the extent of her injuries, was back galloping horses within two weeks.

"I realized then there was something a lot more seriously wrong with me because I was not even feeling safe on a horse," Rainford said. "I was getting dizzy and coming in and out of consciousness almost as soon as I'd get off a horse and have to go sleep for four or five hours.

"I only did that for a couple of days and then I realized I needed a lot more time."

Rainford returned to the doctor and was told she would need to give herself a minimum of two full weeks without any symptoms before trying to get back on horses.

"I thought I did," Rainford said, "but I think I was giving myself the benefit of the doubt, which I probably shouldn't have.

"I tried again, getting on some horses, and the same thing happened. It sort of put me back at square one. I was back to getting dizzy spells again and headaches, which is where I'm at now."

Rainford, who suffered an earlier concussion during training hours this spring that she believed was "very minor," decided to call it a year last Thursday, following another meeting with her doctor.

"Basically, she said I shouldn't be doing anything for another 10 weeks, and that was a best-case scenario," Rainford said. "After all that time off, it would take me a good month to get ready."

That, plus the potential danger of suffering a third concussion within a short period of time, convinced Rainford and her agent, Alan Raymond, to call it a season.

Rainford, frustrated by her lack of activity, has been avoiding the racing scene but thinks that soon will change.

"I think now that the decision's been made, it will be easier for me to get back and know I'll have next year to look forward to," Rainford said. "We can really work, and hope to start off with a bang."

Rainford, who had been granted an extension of her apprentice allowance to Sept. 17 after not riding over the winter, will get credit for the 88 days she will have missed since June 21 when she does return to action.

Switch to turf suits Vestrey Lady

Trainer Reade Baker had a big day in absentia here Monday, recording three winners, including Vestrey Lady in the Grade 3, $126,600 Royal North for fillies and mares.

"Maybe I should stay away more often," said Baker, by phone from the Saratoga sale on Tuesday.

Vestrey Lady, a Kentucky-bred 4-year-old who was the runner-up in the Sovereign Award voting for her division last year, won her third career stakes in the Royal North at 6 1/2 furlongs on turf.

Last year, Vestrey Lady ran big races on Polytrack when winning the 1 1/16-mile La Lorgnette here and finishing second in the Grade 2 Raven Run going the same distance at Keeneland.

This year, however, Vestrey Lady appears to have developed an aversion to Woodbine's surface.

"I don't understand it," Baker said. "Now, she doesn't even want to train on it."

After watching three consecutive losses as the favorite on the main track, Baker tried Vestrey Lady in an open one-mile allowance on the turf.

Vestrey Lady, who had been going well in the mornings on the training track, responded by leading throughout to score by 1 3/4 lengths under regular rider Emile Ramsammy.

The Royal North was coming up just 10 days later, but Baker, who had been expecting a deep and competitive field, elected to run back Vestrey Lady when he learned the race was coming up light in numbers.

Vestrey Lady once again established command early and was able to turn back the odds-on favorite, Financingavailable, who had challenged strongly in midstretch.

"I just know with this filly that when you glide up to her like that, she digs in," Baker said. "If she's going to give up, it's going to be very reluctantly."

Love You Crazy getting rest

Baker's other winners here Monday were Fatal Bullet, a Kentucky-bred 2-year-old colt who was a front-running winner of his six-furlong debut, and Love You Crazy, an Ontario-bred 3-year-old who captured a seven-furlong first-level allowance for fillies and mares.

Baker said Fatal Bullet would be considered for the Summer Stakes, a Grade 3, $250,000 race at one mile on turf here Sept. 16.

Love You Crazy may have made her last appearance of the season.

"I'm going to give her some time," Baker said. "She's had some issues all along. She's going to need a break sometime. I think it might as well be now."

Horse ownership seminar set

Woodbine and the Jockey Club of Canada will conduct a horse ownership seminar from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday in the Turf Lounge at 330 Bay St.

Partnerships, tax issues, Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society breeders awards, and the role of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association will be among the topics discussed.