01/13/2012 2:42PM

Turfway: Injured Castaneda faces long recovery road

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Injured jockey Bonnie Castaneda was moved Thursday to the Cardinal Hill rehabilitation center in Lexington, Ky., where she faces a lengthy recovery process primarily from the brain injury she suffered in a Jan. 1 spill at Turfway Park in northern Kentucky.

Castaneda’s husband, trainer Marco Castaneda, said his wife has mobility in her extremities but that the gravest concern for her long-term well-being is the brain injury she suffered in the spill. She underwent what was deemed successful surgery Jan. 6 to repair and stabilize two vertebrae on her spinal column, but the lingering effects of the brain injury has greatly limited her ability to communicate, said Marco Castaneda.

“The doctors are saying that in their experience, it could be weeks or months before she starts to come around,” he said. “She has screws in her back. Her left side is almost normal, but her right side is still a little weak. The main thing though is she is like a 3-year-old right now. She does not recognize me or our children, and she has no memory of anything. It is going to be a long process and we don’t know exactly how long it is going to be.”

The Castanedas live with their 17-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter in Lexington, where Marco trains a small stable at the Thoroughbred Training Center.

Bonnie Castaneda, 50, was injured when her mount, Jolinda, clipped heels and fell in a $5,000 maiden-claiming event. She has ridden 230 winners since she began her riding career in 1995.

Marco Castaneda said friends from the racetrack are welcome to visit his wife at Cardinal Hill. “We want people to talk to her and see if they can get her to talk or recognize them,” he said. “We have had a lot of calls and support and we need that to continue.”

Veteran gets win in 100th start

Rare is the 13-year-old horse still in training. Rarer still is a 13-year-old horse winning a race at a track as widely recognized as Turfway, but that’s what occurred Thursday evening when El Bomba, ridden by Amanda Tamburello, nosed out Teetee’s Tapit to win the first race, a $5,000 claimer. Remarkably, the victory came in the 100th career start for the Maryland-bred gelding.

“The old guy likes to run,” said an elated Jeff Greenhill, who trains El Bomba for his wife, Sherri. “He’s as sound as can be. We’ve never gotten into any of his joints his whole life. Some horses just are born with better synovial fluids than others, I guess.”

El Bomba has what Greenhill described as a “parrot mouth,” a decided overbite that might well have helped him prevail in the photo Thursday and on at least one other occasion. “He’s not the prettiest thing you’ve ever seen,” said Greenhill. “It probably protrudes an inch and a half, and I swear I think it’s won a couple photos for him.”

Greenhill said El Bomba was the second horse he has trained to win its 100th career start, the first being T.K.’s Turn at River Downs in 2008. “But that’s a pretty useless handicapping angle, I’d imagine,” he laughed.

El Bomba, bred by Pat Duffy and Rodney Jenkins, was sired by Signal Tap. He made his first career start at Woodbine in August 2002, finishing seventh. He now has won 15 times and earned $210,695. He made his first start for the Greenhills in October 2006.

Greenhill said the night before El Bomba won, he accidentally dropped his iPhone in a water bucket and had to go get a replacement. “So now I’m calling my new phone ‘El Bomba,’ ” he laughed again.

Turfway officials said that, unlike in some other states, there is no age limitation in Kentucky regarding when a horse is barred from racing, although age could be an obvious factor when stewards use discretion in deciding to bar a horse from entry.