12/10/2010 12:22PM

Smithwick recovers from near-fatal injuries to resume training

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Daniel Smithwick Jr. is scheduled to be at Turfway Park on Sunday afternoon to saddle a 6-year-old horse named Cardiff Road, one of the 17 horses in his public stable. That, in itself, qualifies as news.

Smithwick sustained potentially life-altering injuries in a horrific fall down a flight of steps at his Louisville home in late October and had been hospitalized until Wednesday.

“I just got released from the rehab center [Wednesday],” Smithwick, 51, said this week from his stable at the HighPointe training center in LaGrange, Ky. “I broke three vertebrae and fractured my skull in several places. The doctors told me I’m lucky to be alive. That it all really makes you step back and take a good look at things.”

Smithwick, who hails from a Maryland family long prominent in steeplechasing and flat racing, said his wife, Eva, and assistant, Clay Brittle, picked up the slack at the barn during his five-week absence. Smithwick had been looking forward to his making his first trip back to a racetrack Saturday to run Katara in the My Charmer Stakes at Turfway, but the filly was excluded when the race overfilled.

Smithwick began his training career in 1991, when he was hired as the private trainer for the late Jack Kent Cooke in Southern California. He worked in that capacity for several years before eventually making his way back east and settling in Louisville. He has won nearly 300 races for earnings of more than $7 million.

Third generation rider gets first win

Cory Orm opened the four-day week of racing at Turfway in stunning fashion by getting his first career winner aboard Lexi’s Ready, a 66-1 shot, in the first race Thursday.

Orm, a 21-year-old apprentice riding with a 10-pound allowance, grew up in Taylorsville, Ky., as the grandson and son of former jockeys, those being Jerry and Mike Orm, respectively. After graduating in 2009 from the North American Riding Academy, the Lexington school run by Chris McCarron, and then working as an exercise rider for Steve Asmussen, Orm made his career debut at Hoosier Park on Sept. 30. His winning mount came in his 53rd try.

Orm’s uncle, Scott, still rides sparingly as a jockey while working primarily as an exercise rider. Scott Orm rode in a later race Thursday for his first mount since July.

◗ Horsemen in Kentucky and beyond have been expressing their support for Kim Carroll, who recently was hospitalized in Louisville with an acute type of leukemia. Her husband, David Carroll, has left his horses in the care of his staff at Fair Grounds in New Orleans to be with Kim, who has been a mainstay of the family’s stable as an assistant and exercise rider. The Carrolls have two teenage children.

◗ Lexi’s Ready set the tone for the nine-race Thursday program at Turfway, where the lowest-priced winner returned $10.40. No favorites came through, and some of the other win mutuels were $77.20, $31.20, $24, and $18.40.

◗ Erik McNeil has joined the Turfway riding colony. McNeil, the 23-year-old son of jockey Tony McNeil, has won 87 races since starting his career in 2008 and was the top apprentice at the 2009 Lone Star Park meet. His book is being handled by Steve Peery.

◗ Trainer Phil Thomas Jr. continues to recuperate from the mild stroke he suffered Dec. 3 at his Churchill Downs barn. Thomas, 60, was transferred this week to the Frazier Rehabilitation Center in Louisville. He has been walking, talking, and eating normally and is in good spirits.