Jose Santos

Jose Santos

Barbara D. Livingston

Santos Retires; Has Five Fractures in Spine

Jockey Jose Santos announced his retirement July 30 at Saratoga Race Course.

Edited press release

Jockey Jose Santos, whose easy-going attitude and fierce competitiveness made him one of the more popular jockeys of his time, announced his retirement July 30 at Saratoga Race Course. The 46-year-old native of Concepcion, Chile, had been trying to come back from injuries suffered in a three-horse spill at Aqueduct on Feb. 1.

“I had five fractures in my spine,” said Santos, who also broke ribs in the spill. “Three of them were compression fractures of the (thoracic) vertebrae. The other two--the T-7 and T-8 --were more serious fractures. My doctor (Dr. Thomas M. Mauri, director of Orthopaedic Spine Program at North Shore University Hospital in Great Neck, N.Y.) said that the way they were pressing against the spinal cord, there would be an 80% chance that I could wind up in a wheelchair if I continued to ride.

“This has been very hard for me, because I really wanted go out on my own terms. That didn’t happen. I decided that I wanted to make this announcement today because I didn’t want to take anything away from the Hall of Fame ceremonies.”

Santos will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., Aug. 6 along with seven others: jockey John Sellers; trainers Henry Forrest, Frank McCabe, and John Veitch; and the horses Mom’s Command, Silver Charm, and Swoon’s Son.

“I am extremely grateful for the career I’ve had, for the owners and trainers that had faith in me, to my fellow jockeys who helped bring out the best in me and to the fans for their support,” said Santos, who rode more than 4,600 career winners and was the Eclipse Award winner in 1988. “Most of all, I am grateful to my family. They have always supported me, and it is tough because every time you ride a horse, you are in danger. They don’t have to worry anymore, and that is a relief.”

Santos rode his first race at Hipico Racecourse in Chile, following in the boot steps of his father, Manuel, and three of his seven brothers. In 1984, he began riding in the South Florida tracks of Gulfstream Park, Hialeah Park, and Calder Race Course. One year later, Santos moved to New York and became the country’s leading rider in money won for the next four years. He moved to California briefly at the end of 1990, but returned in July 1991.

In 1992, Santos was injured at Belmont Park, fracturing his right arm and collarbone and cracking his hip. Fourteen screws and two pins were needed to help the arm heal.

In March 2007, Jose Santos visited Talkin' Horses to talk about his career, his injury, and other topics.

Celebrate the Career of Jose Santos