LAUREL -- The perils of race-riding came into focus yesterday at Laurel Race Course when Alberto Delgado and Larry Saumell took frightening falls in the fifth race -- but escaped injury.
"Thank God I'm all right," Delgado said soon after Mischief at Night fell over Clochal, spilling both riders. "It all happened so fast."
As a field of 14 maidens thundered down the Laurel backstretch, Saumell, on Clochal, was in tight quarters along the rail when an ugly chain of events unfolded.
Saumell began pulling Clochal out, but it was too late. The filly clipped heels with one of the leaders, Triumphal Entry -- ridden by Tommy Turner -- and fell. Then, Mischief at Night -- one of the trailers, with Delgado up -- fell over Clochal.
Neither horse was seriously injured and both riders instinctively crawled under the rail. Delgado, 27, later said he had some minor soreness, but not enough to prevent him from riding in the last race.
Saumell, 33, went home soon afterward, unscathed but not unperturbed. He accused Turner of allowing Triumphal Entry to drift toward the inside, squeezing Clochal off and causing the fall.
"I got dropped, point blank," he said later. "Hey, we all do this for the same reason -- we do it for the money. There was no excuse for what he [Turner] did.
"I don't want to bury any jock, but what he did wasn't right. If he doesn't want to show any sportsmanship, his career will show it later."
Said Turner: "I'm not the kind of jock to say, 'I'm out to get this guy or that guy.' I was on a first-time starter to begin with and she was running green. There was very little room for [Saumell] to be up in there. When I saw him, there were three horses outside me. You can push one horse over to make room, but not three. I tried to make room anyway going into the turn, but my filly shied away and ducked back in. That's just when he was pulling back out, and that's when he went down."
Saumell, whose riding career has produced an astounding list of injuries, said: "Thank God I have what I've got. I've been doing JTC this for 17 years. . . . I know what happened. If he wants to ride like that, he has to live with himself. I'll be all right.
"I hope to be riding [today]. It's like they say, 'When you fall off, you better get right back up.' "
Overall, it was a tumultuous day. A rough start marred the second race; after the seventh race, Turner and Rick Wilson returned to the jockeys' room screaming at one another; and an inquiry in an eventful ninth race resulted in a disqualification.
Odds are that things will be calmer today when 11 fillies and mares go postward in the Carousel Handicap. Delgado has the mount on Wait For the Lady, one of the favorites.
"I know it might be hard to believe," he said, "but I feel great. I feel happy. It's like, I've been tested, and God's watching over me."
NOTES: Brilliant Trick finally broke his maiden. The 3-year-old gelding had finished second 8 times and third 5 times before winning yesterday's second race, an $8,500 maiden-claimer. The race was the 30th of his career. Delgado rode. . . . Tim Peterson won his first race as a journeyman rider yesterday when scoring aboard Fran's Boy in the fourth. The victory was the first in 47 mounts for Peterson, who lost his apprenticeship Nov. 24. . . . Tomorrow's Annapolis Handicap drew a field of 10 3-year-olds. Gala Spinaway is the likely favorite in the 1 1/8 -mile race. . . . Gala Prospector, an unraced 2-year-old filly, makes her career debut in today's ninth. She is a half-sister to Gala Spinaway. . . . Patti Kolb, Laurel/Pimlico horse identifier, has resigned her position.