Gary Stevens, who miraculously escaped serious injury after being thrown by Storming Home a stride from the wire in the Arlington Million, has asked "Seabiscuit" author, Laura Hillenbrand to update his condition to clear up some inaccuracies and let everyone know how he's doing.
"Gary asked me to contact people in the racing press to update everyone on his condition, because so little information has been released, and what has been released has not been completely accurate," Hillenbrand said.
According to Hillenbrand, Stevens' lung collapsed in the fall. Doctors think he held his breath upon striking the ground, and his lung popped from the force of the fall.
"The collapsed lung so badly impeded his breathing that he felt close to death in the ambulance," Hillenbrand relayed. " 'I don't know what a heart attack feels like,' he says he told the paramedics, 'but I think I'm having one.' From the moment he hit the ground until long after he reached the hospital, he had a great deal of trouble getting enough air. He says he feels very fortunate that Arlington had paramedics there, because he was in severe distress.
"The collapsed lung was serious, necessitating his placement in the critical care ward. Doctors reinflated his lung, which Gary said was the most painful thing he has ever experienced. The procedure necessitates leaving a tube in the lung, which caused Gary significant pain, '7 out of 10' on a pain scale, he said. Today he had the tube removed, and his pain has lessened considerably, to a 4 out of 10. There is some risk of the lung recollapsing, but he is out of danger.
"He also has a fractured C-5 vertebra in his upper back. The fracture is not serious, and there is no threat of nerve damage. Remarkably, though, one of the horses who trampled him kicked his leg, but he has no leg injuries, not even a bruise. The hoof of the first horse to trample him raked over his ear and struck his upper body, leaving extensive bruises but no cuts. 'The Hollywood face is okay,' he said, laughing.
"Gary isn't sure what caused Storming Home to spook, but he said that the morning before the race, the horse had stopped on the track at the wire and refused to move, at the same place where he would later bolt. He said he would happily ride the horse again. He was in good spirits, though exhausted and in some pain in spite of medication. He says the staff at the hospital is taking excellent care of him.
"Gary realizes a lot of people are worried about him, and he wants everyone to know that he's okay."
As for Stevens' riding status, he will be sidelined for a month, according to information relayed Monday morning by the rider's theatrical agent, Eddie Goldstone, to Del Mar Thoroughbred Club President and General Manager Joe Harper. That means Stevens will be unable to ride the exciting Candy Ride in Sunday's Pacific Classic.