05/04/2007 12:00AM

Santos career still in doubt


The riding career of jockey Jose Santos remains very much in doubt after injuries he suffered in a spill at Aqueduct three months ago have been slow to heal.

Santos, 46, received the results of an MRI earlier in the week that revealed that his T7 and T8 vertebrae are still cracked. He was injured in a spill at Aqueduct on Feb. 1. Santos said his doctors will reevaluate him in six to eight weeks. If the vertebrae have healed by that time, then Santos could begin physical therapy for another eight weeks.

"Two of the vertebrae I broke I've broken before," Santos said Friday from Florida, where he is visiting family. "He doesn't know how weak those vertebrae will be. He wants to see how they heal and how they take the physical therapy. The problem is with jockeys, the first thing is when they fall they fall on the head or the back. If I fall again . . . I'm not going to be that lucky. I'm probably going to be in a wheelchair, and I don't want to do that."

Santos said that doctors want to see how his back responds to the therapy before giving him clearance to return to race-riding.

"We still have the possibility that I might not be able to ride again," Santos said. "It all depends how strong my back is going to be. Nobody knows which course my back is going to take now."

Santos, the Eclipse Award-winning rider of 1988, has ridden 4,083 winners, including Funny Cide in the 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness. He has also ridden seven Breeders' Cup winners from 62 mounts.