A picture in Saturday's sports section was incorrectly identified as jockey Rudy Turcotte, who was injured in a spill at Pimlico Wednesday. Also in Shirley Povich's column it was reported that Turcotte suggested Easy Edith, the horse ridden by jockey Robert Pineda, killed in the spill was overmedicated with Butazolidin. Turcotte said yesterday his negative comments regarding overmedication of horses were general and not specifically directed towards Easy Edith.
The first reports usually say multiple injuries." This is after the track ambulance has brought the boys in, on stretchers.
That announcement is always a hint something grim has happened out there on the race track. Like a battered skull or a broken back. Or other dreadful damage when unseated riders are plunged by their own stumbling mounts into the path of still - oncoming race traffic composed of more stampeding animals.
Two hours after Wednesday's four rider spill at Pimlico, more specifics were available. Jockey Robert Pineda was dead, his riding helmet plainly showing the crease of horse's hoof. Jimmy Thorton was under treatment for a broken neck, Rudy Turcotte for a broken collarbone. Fred Kratz, the lucky one, walked away from it all, and insisted he would ride a later race that day.
Responsible for the whole, said accident was one sudden factor. The filly on the lead, Easy Edith, broke a foreleg on the turn for home. Down went she and Turcotte. One by one, the mounts of Pineda, Thornton and Krazt were involved. A not uncommon chain-reaction spill.
Race horses frequently break their legs. To mix a metaphor egregiously, their legs are their Archilles' heel.The foreleg of a 1,200-pound animal is scarcely bigger than a leg of an average human. A race horse puts all his weight on whatever foot is hitting the ground, and contrary to common belief he puts only one foot down at the time. and that one takes all the stress. It's even more when a horse "changes leads" around a curve.
It's a hardy breed of little men who ride the nation's race horses and take the chances to make the best living they know how to make.
Of the 1,800 riders belonging to the Jockey's Guild, an average of 200 are injured every year, according to Nick Jemas, managing director of the guild. The guild is helping to support 44 formers riders who are now paraplegics. Four were added to that list in 1977, one so far this year. Forty-three riders have been killed since the guild was formed in 1940. Pineda's is the first riding death on a Maryland track since 1934.
Death on the race track is no stranger to the Pineda family. A freak accident three years ago at Santa Anita claimed the life of Robert Pineda's older brother, Alvaro. His mount reared, crushed the elder Pineda's skull against a high crossbar in the stall gate, one of the few unpadded features of the modern gate.
"When one of those 1,000-pound animals want to lunge, no rider, big or little, can stop him," said Eddie McMullin, the ex-jockey who is now the major domo of the Pimlico press box. He still bears a forehead scare from an episode in which is mount jammed his riding helmet so hard against a stall "that they had to cut the helmet off my head."
Nor was Robert Pineda any stranger to spills before the ultimate tragedy befell him at Pimlico. Last Wednesday his agent, Joe Santo phoned Pineda's wife, Maxine, with his sad message. "Robert has had an accident. You better come to the hospital." Before, from Belmont, and after that from Aqueduct, Maxine Pineda had heard the same message from Santo, "Robert has had . . . "
They all go back to riding because that is the profession they know best, and because, well, they are brave little guys. At Pimlico this week, Gregg McCarron, who has survived a few spills and is riding as vigorously as ever, said, "All you can do when you hit the ground in a race is roll yourself up like a cocoon and pray you won't get hit by a hoof."
Mike Sim, the blond young Canadian rider, who figured in a Pimlico accident in the first week of racing, said, "I expect there will be a couple of spills every year.The last time, I just made myself small in the dirt and watched the horses jump over me. Those animals do try to avoid a man on the ground, you know, if they can."
"They keep on riding," said ex-rider Chester Walters, now clerk of the classes at Pimlico and thus boss of the jock's room, "because all these kids are brave. You show fear, and won't take chances of finding a hole, or always stick to the outside, and you can't fool the trainers. You couldn't buy a mount."
Leroy Moyers, a veteran rider who agrees spills are part of the business and knows the risk, said, "But you can't dwell on it. You think about spills and you're not thinking about getting most out of your mount." Moyers said he turned down the mount on Easy Edith sometime ago after riding her to two victories because, "I didn't think she was hitting the ground solid."
From his hospital bed, Turcotte tossed out the suggestion that Easy Edith was over-medicated with Butazolidin, the pain killer now legal in Maryland and other states.
"You get an over-medicated mount and his pain is numbed so he keeps on running, and things happen," said Turcotte. "A horse that's hurting gradually goes lame and gives you warning."
But Joe Service, a director of the Jockey's Guild, declared, "Bute is nothing more than a strong dose of aspirin."
Ex-jockey Jemas, as top man in the Jockey's Guild, has long been arguing with owners and trainers that his people are a vastly underpaid group considering the risks they take and the owner's fat purse money.
"You hear about the Shoemakers and the Cauthens," Jemas said, "but there's not much glory for most of the riders. In that spill at Pimlico, eight of those jockeys who would finish out of the money were riding for a measly $30 apiece."
In the Kentucky Derby, Jemas pointed out, the winning jockey would get aproximately $20,000 or 10 percent, of the winner's purse, but "the rider on the second horse to finish will be riding for a mere $50."
Insurance companies charge jockeys a premium because of the risk factor in their profession. According to actuarial tables provided by the insurance firms a few years ago, jockeys also have a disposition for fast cars as well as fast horses, and sometimes have difficulty in coping with life.
The survey showed that among active jockeys, the three leading causes of death were: 1) Automobile accidents, 2) accidents on the race track and 3) suicide.
Although owners may have a loving regard for their race horses, this affection is not always shared by the riders, who sometimes view the animals as uncontrollable dumb beasts.
"Thoroughbreds are hard to explain," Eddie McMullin said. "The same horses that are gentle and kind one day go berserk the next, they try to unseat you and want their own way, or they sulk."
A proper stakes horse named War Ministrel destroyed himself and almsot a modest bet I had on him years ago at Arlington Park in Chicago. He showed on interest in taking the first turn, headed straight for the outside fence, hit it, throwing his rider 20 feet, and was brought back as a carcass.
Jemas relates an episodes on a mount name Tidy Bid he was riding in a race against Eddie Arcaro on Hampden. "My trainer told me to get out fast and take the track away from Arcaro, and that's what I did," Jemas said. "But Tidy Bid had his own ideas on the turn into the backstretch. He didn't take it. My colt hit the outside fence like he wanted to commit suicide, pitching me 30 feet into a manure pile. Arcaro won the race but I was in the jock's room before he got back from the winner's circle.Eddie thought he was seeing a ghost."
Now, an insight into the little people who continue to ride these big, sometimes ugly, horses. One of them is Bill Passmore, Laurel native and dean of Maryland riders who is now celebrating his 30th year in the saddle. He was hurt March 22 in that spill at Pimlico when Mike Sim also went down. But Passmore says he'll be riding again in three weeks. Says he only fractured two vertebrae and his sternum.