Injuries make for risky business

December 19, 1993|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Staff Writer

You don't have to be riding a horse to be hurt by one.

That's the message brought home this week when Jeff Lukas, 36-year-old son of trainer D. Wayne Lukas, suffered a fractured skull when he was knocked down by a loose horse at Santa Anita Park.

Officials at Huntington Memorial Hospital said Lukas had been upgraded from critical to serious Thursday, but his condition worsened Friday, to critical. He remained in critical condition yesterday.

When jockeys are injured during a race, it's news because it happens before a large public audience.

But many other track workers risk serious injury every day in jobs that involve trying to control half-ton animals.

Just ask the grooms, hot walkers, trainers, blacksmiths, veterinarians and track identifiers who have been stepped on, kicked and bitten by high-strung thoroughbreds, all during the course of a day's work.

Mark Landers, who works for trainer Howard Wolfendale, loved an old horse named Second Lieutenant that he rubbed for a couple of years.

Second Lieutenant consistently won races, "but he was just about the meanest horse on the backstretch," Landers said.

Just two weeks before Second Lieutenant was retired last spring, he kicked Landers so hard that he severed a nerve in the man's knee.

"He just caught me in the right spot," said Landers, who already has had one surgery and might end up having a muscle transplant because of the injury. "I don't hate the horse for it. I knew it was just a matter of time before he'd nail me," Landers said.

Although Landers' injury was severe, he did not have to be flown by helicopter to Maryland's Shock Trauma Center, as owner/trainer Gretchen Mobberley did. Mobberley was walking

outside her feed room when a horse kicked her in the stomach last year. She suffered internal injuries, including a ruptured spleen. Incredibly, Mobberley was back riding a horse in about six weeks.

Mike Geralis, a trainer who works with his partner, Damon Dilodovico, at the Bowie Training Center, missed three weeks of work earlier this fall after a horse named Stellar Hawk kicked him in the lower abdomen.

"I was in the stall with him," Geralis said. "All of a sudden he spun around, backed me into a corner and let me have it with both

hind legs."

Geralis recalled the story about a Billy Boniface-trained horse, El Raggaas. Once when the animal ran at Delaware Park, he bit off a finger of the track identifier who was inspecting his lip tattoo.

Geralis also remembers an incident involving the late trainer Hap Ravich. "He had a horse named Endless Surprise [a multiple stakes winner] who bit off Hap's thumb one morning. Hap is standing there with blood running down his hand, looking for help, and the stable foreman passes out," Geralis said.

Horses normally are not considered dangerous animals. Instinctively, they flee from fear. But when a thoroughbred is cooped up in a stall for 23 hours a day, it can become a caged animal with so much pent-up energy that it is bound to take out its frustrations on the most available object, human or otherwise. Fortunately, more stall boards get kicked than people.

Boniface's Florida division

Trainers Vinnie Blengs, Bill Donovan, John Salzman and Barclay Tagg normally take their outfits to Florida for the winter.

But Billy Boniface has shipped a string there for the first time.

"It's just about a half-dozen turf horses," he said. Included in the -- group are Strike a Gold Mine, Caveat's Image, Native Warning, Sara's Halo, Destimony and Fly So High. The latter was recently purchased by Roger and Jackie Schipke from trainer Ann Merryman.

The Schipkes have good reason to expand their racing stable. They have earned more than $250,000 this year with two 2-year-old fillies, Irish Forever and Loved To Be Loved, that they purchased for $30,000 at the Fasig-Tipton 2-year-old auction at Timonium last spring.

Winner, by a nose

Ever heard of a horse with a crooked nose?

When the colt Baltimore Express was born two years ago at Wylie Tuttle's Rock Hall Stud on the Eastern Shore, his nose was so crooked he couldn't nurse.

When only a day old, he had to be shipped to the New Bolton Center of the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical School in Kennett Square, Pa., for emergency surgery.

During a two-year period, surgeon Dean Richardson equipped the horse's nose with a metal fixator, which is a steel brace used to straighten the nasal cavity.

"Every time the fixator was adjusted, it required surgery," said Amanda Tuttle, who manages the family farm. "Sometimes he spent as much as three months at New Bolton and had six or seven surgeries to straighten his nose."

The horse was at New Bolton so much that the veterinary students dedicated their 1992 yearbook to the horse.

"They nicknamed him Stanley, for Stanley Hardware," Tuttle said.

Baltimore Express, a son of Nureyev out of the stakes producer Miss Huntington, made his debut at Laurel this past week.

He finished eighth out of nine starters.

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