Print and Go Back New York Horse Racing [Print without images]

Thursday, January 19, 2012
Sad days at the races

By Bob Ehalt

As colorful and exciting as racing may be, there are times when it can turn dark and disturbing, with only a thin line separating life from death.

On a bitterly cold weekend at Aqueduct, the many dangers faced in every race by horse and rider were put on display through a harrowing pair of grotesque spills that claimed the life of two horses and sent three jockeys to the hospital.

Fortunately, none of the riders suffered serious injuries, but the next time anyone gets peeved at what they perceive to be an ill-advised ride, visions of what happened this weekend should put the challenges a jockey faces into a sharper perspective.

The first incident occurred in Saturday’s fourth race, when Scorper, while racing in about the four path, went down with jockey Alan Garcia. Quickly coming up behind them, Hardshell could not avoid Scorper, tripping over him and hurling jockey Junior Alvarado to the ground.

While Hardshell ran off after the spill, Scorper suffered a fractured left ankle and had to be put down.

Garcia and Alvarado were taken to North Shore University Hospital, where scans and x-rays came back negative. Alvarado managed to ride on Sunday’s card, while Garcia elected to sit out on Sunday and Monday with a sore back. He is tentatively scheduled to return Thursday.

The following day, after the field crossed the finish line in the ninth race, Raw Moon suffered a fatal heart attack and collapsed to the ground with jockey Ryan Curatolo.
Fundsalo Jones, ridden by Jackie Davis, crashed into the stricken Raw Moon, unseating Davis.

Curatolo was able to walk away from the spill, while Davis underwent x-rays and scans at North Shore that also came back negative.

Davis missed Monday’s card but she is also expected back Thursday.

"Her initial X-rays were negative, but she told the doctors she was still in pain, so they did a CT scan, and that was also negative,” said Davis' agent Roger Sutton. “She was hurting, but she’s tough.”

As sad as the two accidents were, there could have been an even worse catastrophe because of the size of the two fields. There were 10 horses in Saturday’s race and 11 in Sunday’s, creating the possibility for much larger spills.

On afternoons that cast a somber pall over a day at the races, that might be the lone silver lining.