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Thursday, May 5, 2011
Anniversary of jockey Ralph Neves' strange tale


Horse racing cost Ralph Neves his life -- at least temporarily.

He must be one of only a few people to have both "death" and "resurrection" sections under his name on Wikipedia.

Seventy-five years ago on May 8, Neves, who went on to be a Hall of Fame jockey, died and came back to life.

The headline in the May 9, 1936, San Francisco Examiner summed up the story succinctly: "Neves, Called Dead in Fall, Denies It."

Just a teenager at the time, Neves was riding a series of races at Bay Meadows in San Mateo, Calif., when he was thrown from his mount, cracking his skull against a track barrier. Then, according to reports, he was trampled by at least four horses.

By the time the track physician, Dr. J. A. Warburton, and two other doctors reached Neves, his body was limp and he had no pulse. They declared him dead and the track announcer broke the solemn news to a stunned crowd.

"Whether Neves was dead depends on what you call death," said Warburton in an Associated Press report from the following day.

Turns out, a knock on the head and being trampled was not enough to kill Neves, known as the "Portuguese Pepperpot" and the "Prince of Busted Bones." Neves was transferred to the track infirmary, where Warburton gave it one last shot, so to speak, injecting Neves with a needle full of adrenaline nearly 10 minutes after the accident.

Not only did the jockey wake up, but after being taken to a local hospital, he ducked out, hailed a cab and returned to the track, where he demanded the chance to ride his last mount of the day.