Friday, February 6, 2004

Jockey hurt at Turfway clings to life



By Kevin Kelly
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE]
Michael Rowland
With family members and fellow jockeys at his bedside, Michael Rowland remained in critical condition Thursday night after a three-horse spill Wednesday evening at Turfway Park.

The 41-year-old husband, father and successful jockey was on life support at University Hospital, Jockeys' Guild vice president Albert Fiss said.

"He will more than likely be classified as a permanently disabled jockey if he survives," Fiss said. "In speaking to the jockeys that have been at his bedside, they're not sure if that is going to be the case."

Turfway Park officials canceled Thursday's live racing out of concern for the condition of Rowland, who was said to have brain swelling and internal bleeding.

"He's in trouble," Rowland's agent, Jamie Fowler, told the Louisville Courier-Journal. "We're just hoping for the best."

Rowland has started 68 races this year at Turfway Park and won five. He is two wins shy of 4,000 for his career.

Turfway Park officials have had a celebration planned for weeks for the day Rowland reached the milestone.

"I've seen so many spills," Turfway Park announcer Mike Battaglia said, "but this was the worst one ever."

Rowland, a native of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., was riding World Trade in the seventh race Wednesday. It was a $13,900 claimer for 4-year-olds and up that started at 8:06 p.m. on a muddy track.

World Trade, a 5-year-old trained by Bernard S. Flint, was leading the field when it broke one of its legs and fell in the final turn. The horse was euthanized.

"Something like that is probably the worst thing I've ever (experienced) around me," Flint told the Courier-Journal. "What caused it? I don't know. I wasn't there. But the horse was in good physical shape. He was certainly ready and able to perform. I guess he took the wrong step at the wrong time."

Two other jockeys - Mark T. Johnston and Jessica Endres - were involved in the accident as they came upon Rowland and World Trade.

Johnston, 34, was riding Miner Moss and broke his collarbone when he was thrown. He was released from University Hospital on Thursday afternoon, Turfway Park spokeswoman Sherry Pinson said.

Endres, who was riding Joanies No Phony, was treated at the track for bruises.

"It's bad enough when you go off in the back" of the pack, Battaglia said. Rowland "got kicked in the head once, maybe twice. I watched the replay once and it made me sick. I didn't watch it again."

Rowland lives near Cleveland with his wife and three children and races primarily out of Thistledown in Cleveland. He holds the Thistledown record for most meets won (29) and has been atop six winners in one day twice at that track.

"He's a great dad," Fowler told the Courier-Journal. "... This guy is a one-of-a-kind guy. Everybody loved him. All the horsemen really liked him. They still do. I don't want to talk about him in the past tense."

According to Fiss at the Jockeys' Guild, on average one jockey in the United States and three internationally die each year from horseracing injuries.

Every year an average of 1.5 jockeys suffer injuries serious enough to leave them permanently disabled. There are 53 former jockeys now with that designation. Disabled jockeys receive some compensation from the Jockeys' Guild.

It has been 27 years since a jockey died on a Kentucky racetrack, according to the Courier-Journal.

Nelma Joan Henderson died June 14, 1976, from internal and chest injuries from a training accident at Churchill Downs.

E-mail kkelly@enquirer.com




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