03/14/2011 12:15PM

Santa Anita paddock guard, 90, improving after accident

John Shear, 90, expects to return to work at Santa Anita this fall.

ARCADIA, Calif. – John Shear, the popular paddock guard seriously injured on Saturday when hit by a loose horse while heroically protecting a small girl, was described as improved “180 degrees” on Sunday night by his son, Mike.

“I went and saw him last night in ICU and he didn’t look good,” Mike Shear said, adding that on Sunday, “he was sitting upright, talking, laughing, and completely coherent and he’s stable.”

Mike Shear said his father, 90, had multiple fractures, including in the pelvis. Four years ago, Shear was hurt at Hollywood Park and had a rod inserted.
“The doctors think this has caused some internal bleeding in that bone area and he did lose a significant amount of blood yesterday,” Shear said. “The latest word is he’s not going to have to undergo surgery at this time, which is great news.”

Shear, a spry former jockey, is a well-known figure at Santa Anita, and the incident on Saturday shook up many here, both fans and management alike. He was hit when a horse got loose from his handlers, then charged full bore the width of the paddock toward the child, who was with her family in the paddock. Shear has worked at the track for nearly 50 years, since December of 1961.

“My dad does about 35 pushups a day and he eats well and stays fit,” Shear said. “I think that’s the biggest reason he’s recovering so quickly.”