09/28/2010 1:35PM

Talamo ready to resume riding at Oak Tree meet

Benoit & Associates
Joe Talamo, after winning five races at Hollywood Park in November 2009, has been sidelined since breaking his wrist in a fall at Del Mar on Aug. 5.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Joe Talamo looked down at his left wrist, flexed it back and forth a few times, and made a fist with his left hand.

Seven weeks after he broke that wrist in a spill on the turf course at Del Mar, the hand and wrist were back to normal as Talamo stood in the barn area at Hollywood Park last weekend. Thursday’s opening night of the Oak Tree at Hollywood Park meeting was days away and the 20-year-old jockey was eager to resume race riding.

“They said it was a good break,” he said. “It wasn’t displaced. They just put a cast on it.”

Talamo described his recent consultations with Dr. Dan Capen, a noted orthopedic surgeon and Thoroughbred horse owner, about the wrist and the therapy that followed.

“I’ve turned into a biology major,” Talamo said.

Talamo is already into his fifth year of riding in a career that began in Louisiana in 2006 and he was in second place in the Del Mar standings when he was hurt on Aug. 5.

The injury put Talamo on the sidelines at a pivotal point of the season, just as Del Mar’s meeting was intensifying and he was eager to ride several important horses. Three days after the accident, J P’s Gusto won the Best Pal Stakes under Patrick Valenzuela, a mount intended for Talamo. J P’s Gusto later won the Del Mar Futurity under Valenzuela, who retains the mount this weekend in the Norfolk Stakes.

In the weeks before the injury, Talamo rode Temple City to a win in the Cougar II Handicap, Lilly Fa Pootz to a victory in the Osunitas Handicap, and Sidney’s Candy to a runner-up finish in the Swaps Stakes. Plus, there were scores of everyday horses he booked to ride at Del Mar. One by one, he has to regain those mounts.

When sidelined, Talamo was tied with Rafael Bejarano for second to Joel Rosario in the Del Mar jockey standings. Rosario and Bejarano battled to the final day of the meeting before Rosario won the title by one win. Talamo, the champion apprentice of 2007, has yet to win a riding title in Southern California, but he could have easily finished in the top three at Del Mar.

“That could have been my breakout meeting,” Talamo said. “Who knows how many stakes wins we would have had. I know we’d have been up there. You have to deal with it.”

Talamo went back to his native New Orleans to visit family in August. While there, he began to focus on regaining fitness and rehabilitating his wrist.

“I still can’t believe how hot it was,” he said. “I was working out on the treadmill and I came back fit. I did a lot of weights. The first week it was torture, the wrist was really throbbing.”

Talamo resumed working horses in California in mid-September and has had a few mornings when he ridden 10 a day, buzzing through the barns at Hollywood Park from one appointment to another.

“He’s ridden about 75 or 80 horses since he’s gotten back,” his agent, Scotty McClellan, said on Sunday.

This weekend, Talamo has mounts in at least four of the six graded stakes – Lilly Fa Pootz in Saturday’s Yellow Ribbon Stakes, Moon de French in Saturday’s Lady’s Secret Stakes, Indian Gracey in Sunday’s Oak Leaf Stakes, and Worth Repeating in Sunday’s Clement Hirsch Turf Championship.

His business may increase rapidly with an early win or two.

“He’s got such a great attitude and when you have that it works in your favor,” trainer John Sadler said.

On Oct. 9, Talamo will be at Keeneland to ride California Flag in the Woodford Stakes. California Flag represents Talamo’s biggest career win – the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Santa Anita last fall. California Flag could be among Talamo’s key mounts for the Breeders’ Cup meeting at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5-6.

“I’d been away so much,” he said. “I’ve been getting up at 4:45 and getting on everything I can. I’m just taking it day-by-day to get it all back. You don’t realize how much you miss something until you lose it.”