Racing & Wagering

Barn Notes: Thursday, June 27, 2013

| Churchill Downs Communications | 06/27/2013 #

In Today’s Notes: Tim Thornton: Batter and Bruised, But Spirit Not Broken; Rosemary Ready to Return

To see a badly bruised jockey Tim Thornton wearing a brace and an arm sling while walking around Arlington International Racecourse in recent days, it would be hard to fathom that the rider expects to be back in the saddle in a mere four to five more weeks.

“I’ve always been one to tough it out and come back as soon as possible,” Thornton said while chatting in the jockey’s room.  “I’m expecting to be back four or five weeks from now.  It takes a lot to keep me down.”

Thornton received multiple injuries in a recent incident at Canterbury Park when he went to the Minnesota track to ride a horse for trainer Joel Berndt, who has the bulk of his stable there this summer.  The trip was supposed to be as much social as for business.  Recently retired jockey Tanner Riggs, one of Thornton’s best friends, is serving as an assistant to Berndt and the pair was planning a crawfish boil before the races that evening.

“I went up there to visit Tanner,” Thornton explained.  “I was planning to come in on Wednesday night and race there Thursday since we were not racing here.  He put me on a horse that was supposed to win.  Joel said whenever I’d come up there, he’d put me on one and pay for my flight.

“My flight on Wednesday got delayed and I didn’t arrive until 3:00 in the morning.  Tanner picked me up and I went to the track with him that morning,” he continued.  “We were going to have a crawfish boil but the shipment got screwed up and they never arrived.”

Unfortunately, the missed crawfish boil was not the worst thing to happen to Thornton that day.  “So that night I’m riding a horse (Key the Code) for Joel, a horse that I had ridden for (Mike) Reavis,” he explained.  “I had broken his maiden at Hawthorne and Joel claimed him.  Joel put me on and he was the (2-1) favorite.  He had just run second in the same (kind of) race in his last start.

“I was laying third and there was a horse (Executive  Action)  on the inside of me on the middle of turn.  The jock on that horse (Denny Velazquez) decided he needed out but he had absolutely nowhere to go.  He slammed into me a couple of times as hard as he possibly could.  My horse must’ve had his legs in the air when I got slammed into and just crossed his legs. 

“I’ve never had a horse fall with me that fast – ever.  You normally have some reaction time or time to start to take a hold of your horse before something happens. I didn’t have time for even a thought, let alone a reaction.  I’m pretty sure the first thing that hit the ground was my head and my face.  I hit so hard but I didn’t lose consciousness at all.  My helmet and goggles were all over my face.”

According to the Equibase chart, Waffle House Kid was unable to avoid the fallen horse and threw his rider, Justin Sheppard to the track.

“Justin was the first to get to me,” Thornton noted.  “He said he never saw anything like that. He said I was in a pool of blood.  How I got up and was walking around for minute, I don’t know.  Justin unzipped my (safety) vest and took off my helmet.  I was bleeding everywhere.”

Though Thornton traveled solo to Minnesota, he was anything but alone in his time of need.  “Tanner rode in the ambulance with me to the hospital.  He and his girlfriend Valerie stayed by my side all night,” he said.  “I went to one hospital and after they had done x-rays, I was rushed to a Level 1 trauma center.  Tanner rode with me in that ambulance as well.  They called my sister Maria, who is staying with me this summer.  She got (to the hospital) right as Tanner and Valerie had to leave to go to work the next morning.

“Maria took great care of me.  It was the worse pain I’ve ever been in.  My parents came up, too.  I was in the hospital for four days. My dad – who had pretty much just got back from picking my mom up in Florida where she had been hurt – in one week flew from Oklahoma to Miami to pick up my mother and drive her truck back to Oklahoma, and then two days later drove from there to Minneapolis to drive me back to Chicago and then back to Oklahoma.”

The list of injuries to Thornton is long. “Two fractures in my skull – on the forehead.  One was vertical, right between my eyes. That was the fracture that was all the way through to my brain.  I had air pockets and blood on my brain.  I have a fractured sinus cavity and then another fracture right above my right eyebrow.

“My humerus was broken in half – luckily that was a clean break so I don’t have to have any surgery on it.  I went to a specialist, Dr. Walsh, and he said that will take about another three weeks to completely heal and then a couple of weeks of physical therapy after that.”

However, Thornton is a quick healer and he looked much more his old self on his second visit to the track a few days later.

“I was surprised at how fast all the swelling and bruising went down,” he said. “They said the skull fractures will close up pretty quick on their own.  I knew who I was, what had happened, how it had happened.  I had zero memory loss but the CT scan showed I had a mild concussion. The headache though was so bad that first week that I couldn’t put a hat on and you know me, I always have a hat on.  I feel naked without a hat on.”

Thornton is already back wearing a hat, and knowing the 26-year-old rider, he will be wearing silks again soon enough.

Jockey Rosemary Homeister, Jr., who currently holds the highest in-the-money percentage at the current Arlington International Racecourse meet, is well on her way to recovery and return, she said Thursday afternoon. 

“I’m doing well.  I went to the doctor’s office yesterday and have my release to come back on July 7.  I’ll be glad to get back,” she reported.  “I had a concussion and was in the hospital for two days, but have had no problems since.”

The veteran rider, who is in her second Arlington season after finishing third in last year’s standings, turns 41 on July 5 and looks forward to giving herself a belated birthday gift.  “I miss horseracing and the fans – the racetrack is my family.  The fact that I don’t see everyone every day is hard, so I can’t wait to get back.”

Homeister will be back exercising horses on Monday, July 1.