Monday, May 25, 2009

Pray for Rene

I ventured away from technology for 20 hours Sunday to visit the beach with my family and upon my return, only one item from the horse racing world merits my foremost attention.

I offer prayers for Rene Douglas, who is likely to be permanently paralyzed in his lower extremities after a spill aboard the 4-year-old A.P. Indy filly Born to Be in the Grade 3 Arlington Matron Handicap. I urge anyone who believes in a higher power to do the same.

Douglas' filly was bumped by a second horse, clipped heels with another, somersaulted throwing Douglas to the track, and landed with her full weight on the jockey. Though Born To Be continued to lie upon Douglas after the crash, apparently it was mostly to gather her wits. She reportedly had to be pulled off Douglas so that he could be treated, but after an ambulance-van ride back to the barn, Born to Be was said to have "recovered" from the fall, according to The Blood-Horse, which cited Douglas' agent, Dennis Cooper. 

(Edit: The Daily Racing form now reports that Born to Be was euthanized later at Arlington Park. ... RIP, talented one, and my condolences to the connections.)

Cooper said doctors "gave it straight" to him after seven hours of surgery, saying that Douglas is unlikely ever to walk again. A 42-year-old native of Panama, Douglas has nearly 3,600 North American victories as a jockey, and his mounts have earned more than $102 million. He was the regular rider for 2-year-old filly champion Dreaming of Anna, and won the 1996 Belmont Stakes aboard Editor's Note.

Douglas and his wife, Natalia, have three sons, Michael, Giancarlo and Christian. They'll all need our prayers.

Moments such as this serve to remind us of the sacrifices being made by the men, women and animals who make this game possible.

I hope the early prognosis is unduly dire and that Rene Douglas is someday able to walk. Of course it's likely that even if that happens, he's done with riding.

Either way, it's fair to look back on his career his career at this point, and I would contend he was one of the top riders of his era. His is not necessarily one of the names that race fans and handicappers would list when naming the greatest recent jockeys; he's just the guy whose horses beat their horses about as often as theirs beat his.

Douglas twice won 11 stakes races in a season at Arlington Park (2002 and 2007), a record he shares with the likes of Kennard Knapp (1965), Pat Day (1981) and Jorge Velasquez (1989). He won six riding titles at Arlington Park, where in 2003 he won seven races on a single card, and he was tied for the leading rider title at the Chicago track in the early going this year. Douglas also won three riding titles at Calder and Hialeah, setting a single-season win mark at the latter.

In the irons, especially at Arlington, Rene Douglas was money.

Get well, Rene. I'll keep you and your family in my prayers.

(Visit Rene's Web site at

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