Disabled jockeys' fund is launched

$1M goal for '06

`Saratoga' looks to rebound

Preakness notebook

May 19, 2006|By SANDRA MCKEE | SANDRA MCKEE,SUN REPORTER

A month ago, a horse rolled over jockey John Velazquez during a race at Keeneland, breaking his collarbone and collapsing his lung. The injuries aren't life-threatening, but they are a reminder of how close jockeys are to devastating, life- and career-threatening injuries.

With the accident fresh in his memory, Velazquez yesterday joined with Don Amos, Magna Entertainment Corp.'s chief operating officer, to announce the launch of the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund, a charity established to provide aid to permanently disabled jockeys and their families in North America.

"There are currently 60 permanently disabled jockeys," Amos said at the news conference outside the stakes barn at Pimlico Race Course. "Those jockeys, with the exception of Ronnie Turcotte, Rudy Baez and a few others, to a lot of us, don't have a face. They don't have a name. They get lost in the transition."

Backed by a consortium of racetracks and racing organizations, the fund has hopes of $1 million this year.

Souvenir golden wristbands and hats will be sold at Pimlico this weekend, and the traditional Preakness jockeys autograph session will benefit the fund today, when the second race on the card will be run in the name of the new initiative.

"This really is so important," said Velazquez, the reigning two-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey, who hopes to be riding by June. "Most of the jockeys who get hurt are injured real early in their careers, in their 20s or early 30s. They've had no time to build a safety net for their families. This is a big step for them and for all of us."

Fresh start

Saratoga Drive, a 33 3/4 -length loser in her past start, is the morning-line second choice at 5-1 today in the $250,000 Grade II Woodford Reserve Black-Eyed Susan Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.

"I think you can throw out that Keeneland embarrassment," said Rick Violette, who trains the daughter of Siphon, who had never been out of the money in four previous starts. "She looks like she certainly belongs. I'm still not sure what happened that day. ... [In the Ashland Stakes,] horses loved [the track] or hated it. Obviously, she didn't love it."

To win, Saratoga Drive will have to beat seven others, including 2-1 favorite She's an Eleven.

In the $500,000 Grade I Pimlico Special, Wanderin Boy is the 8-5 favorite. A 5-year-old son of Seeking the Gold, Wanderin Boy has won five of nine starts in a career interrupted by a broken cannon bone.

"He's kind of an amazing horse," trainer Nick Zito said. "Considering what he has gone through, it's amazing how much he has accomplished."

Et cetera

The star on the saddlecloths of the nine Preakness contenders tomorrow is the colorectal cancer symbol of hope. Janet Turcotte, formerly married to the brother of Triple Crown jockey Ron Turcotte, has embroidered the Preakness saddle cloths for years and this year asked to include the symbol as a way to raise awareness of the disease, which she has been personally fighting for three years. ...

Brenda Handleman, who worked for 43 years in the food service business at Pimlico before retiring last year, was named honorary postmaster for the temporary Preakness station at the track. smm2me@aol.com

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