He started riding bulls in Oklahoma rodeos at age 6 and went on to suffer concussions, a broken hip, a broken collarbone and broken ribs.
But Steve Hamilton never stopped jumping on the backs of animals and today, at 18, he is the hot new apprentice rider on the Maryland racing circuit.
With two more victories on yesterday's card, Hamilton has seven wins on his past three Pimlico programs, exclusive of Preakness Day, when he did not have a mount.
Suddenly, after 3 1/2 weeks in Maryland, trainers are seeking him out to ride.
Hamilton has been riding officially for less than a year, beginning at Blue Ribbon Downs in Sallisaw, Okla., where in his debut he took a 99-1 shot named Kitabrown to the wire first.
"My mom had $30 across the board on him," he said shyly. "She only did it because it was me."
His pre-track work began under Mark Holder when he started galloping horses at age 12 and "he took me to a few bush tracks later in Kansas and Oklahoma. I had been riding in rodeos my whole life, so it wasn't new to me."
An apprentice license followed last October and at the end of April he moved to Maryland, where his first winner was Geehaylee for trainer John Lenzini.
Last Sunday, he took three of H. Steward Mitchell's horses to the winner's circle, and yesterday he scored with Saint Nixy in the first for Hamilton Smith and Overhills in the fifth for Janon Fisher -- III.
"It's mostly quarter horses in Oklahoma," he said. "Here, they are thoroughbreds and the racing is a lot more classic. Down home, mostly cowboys ride. They go with what they have."
Hamilton grew up in Vian, Okla., a town of about 2,300 people 1 1/2 hours east of Tulsa by automobile. His father operates a natural gas and oil drilling business.
"Everybody here is helping me. I'm still learning," he said. "When you quit learning, you'd better get out of the business."
NOTES: Jockey Andrea Seefeldt has been suspended for seven days beginning Saturday for permitting High Bimelech to drift out approaching the finish line in Sunday's third race. The horse was disqualified from second and placed fourth. . . . No one hit the double triple yesterday, and the carry-over increased to $181,425.40. . . . Edgar Prado also had a double on yesterday's card, giving him 60 winners for the meet. Larry Reynolds is a distant second with 33. . . . Monday's Memorial Day program includes the giveaway of a free Orioles ticket to the first 3,000 fans. Also planned are simulcasts of the $500,000 Metropolitan Handicap and the $300,000 Jersey Derby.