Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Jockey succumbs to injury

Michael Rowland loved riding, and won often

By Rebecca Goodman
The Cincinnati Enquirer

CORRYVILLE - Michael Rowland - one of the Midwest's premier jockeys with 3,998 wins - died quietly in his wife's arms at 12:29 a.m. Monday at University Hospital.

Jockey Michael Rowland (shown in a Sept. race) died Monday after he was injured last week in a three-horse spill at Turfway Park.
(AP/file photo)
"We were asleep in each other's arms and he just stopped breathing and went to sleep," said his wife, Tammy.

Their 15-year-old daughter, Farren,was at their side.

Mr. Rowland, who was 41, had been trampled during the seventh race Wednesday at Turfway Park.

He went down when his horse, World Trade, broke its leg. Mr. Rowland suffered a fractured skull and brain damage after two other horses - unable to avoid him - stepped on his head.

Born Sept. 12, 1962, in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., Mr. Rowland won his first race in 1979 on Tam's Princess at Delta Downs in Louisiana. He was the leading rider at Thistledown near Cleveland, where he was based, seven times.

Fewer than 45 jockeys have achieved 4,000 wins since records have been kept, according to Robert N. Elliston, president of Turfway Park.

"If he had any regrets whatsoever it would be that he didn't get to win his 4,000th race,'' said Mr. Rowland's agent, Jamie Fowler of Florence. "Mike was a one-of-a-kind person. If you sat down and tried to design a person who was a great dad, great friend and great jockey, you'd get Michael Rowland. Any kid growing up - if they aspired to be like Mike Rowland - would have accomplished something."

Mr. Rowland normally raced during the summers at Thistledown and occasionally at Turfway, which has year-round races. He and his wife, a horse trainer, came to Northern Kentucky after the first of the year because she needed a place to run her horses.

"They were going to stay here until the spring," Fowler said, "and make a decision about going back. They said this felt like home down here and they were even considering making this their home base."

Another friend and fellow jockey, Tony Caminita of Cleveland, said, "Mike was just a super person. He just loved life and everyone around. It's a shame that his life was so short-lived. Everyone that's ever ridden with him or ever known him has respected him."

Mr. Rowland was conscious after the spill and even argued with the EMT, according to Fowler.

"At that time, we knew he'd been injured, but we thought he was going to be OK,'' he said. "On the way to the hospital Mike had gone unconscious, and his breathing stopped, and they put him on the ventilator. The reports we got after that kept getting worse. He just died in his sleep. It was very peaceful."

Farren Rowland said her father was an outgoing, friendly guy. "He was wonderful. ... He was just a really fun person to be with and to be around. He was very family-oriented. I loved him so much."

She said her mother is "trying to be strong for the family, but it really has hit her hard."

But Tammy Rowland is taking comfort in her husband's life: "He was awesome," she said. "He was one of the best riders around. He loved doing what he did. He wouldn't have had this any other way."

In addition to his wife and daughter Farren, Mr. Rowland is survived by two other daughters, Sara and Randi. At Mr. Rowland's request, there will be no funeral. A memorial service will be 11 a.m. Wednesday at Turfway Park's Homestretch dining room.

Turfway Park has set up the Michael F. Rowland Fund to benefit his family. Donations can be made at any Fifth Third Bank or mailed to Turfway Park, P.O. Box 8, Florence, KY 41022.

Other memorial donations can be sent to: Kentucky HDPA, 422 Heywood Ave., Louisville, KY 40208 to benefit horses.


E-mail rgoodman@enquirer.com

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