Bravo Wins Two at Atlantic City, Heads for Texas Mile

(from Lone Star Park)
Jockey Joe Bravo won with both of his mounts at Atlantic City Race Course on Wednesday, his first day back in the saddle since he suffered a serious back fracture 3 1/2 months ago at Gulfstream Park.

The 34-year-old Bravo, winner of 3,745 races and $88 million of purse money in a 19-year-career, continues his comeback aboard Halos Sailing Sain in Saturday's $300,000 Texas Mile (gr. III) at Lone Star Park.

The Texas Mile will be Bravo's first mount in a stakes race since his spill. He has never won a race at Lone Star Park.

He won the third race at Atlantic City aboard even-money favorite Letter Perfect and came back to take the seventh on 17-10 choice Stage Anthem.

Bravo fractured two vertebrae in a frightening spill on opening day at Gulfstream Park. It was the second race on April 1 when he crashed to the ground after his mount suffered a career-ending injury midway through the far turn.

"I was on eight that day and I went down on the first mount I was supposed to be riding," Bravo said. "I ended up breaking my T8 and T9 vertebrae. They told me I was going to need a rod in my back and I'd be out a year."

The T8 and T9 vertebrae are located in the middle part of the spine, below the shoulder blades.

Of all the places to suffer an injury like Bravo's, there couldn't have been a better spot than South Florida. Before Bravo had any metal inserted he sought a second opinion from The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, the largest spinal cord injury and paralysis research center in the world. Dr. Barth Green, a neurosurgeon at the University of Miami School of Medicine, had seen countless cracks like Bravo's before.

"He said if I wore a brace for three or four months I'd be just fine," Bravo said. "Turns out he was right. I've been working out and getting on horses for almost a month. Things have been going great."

"Jersey Joe" thinks he has a big chance with trainer Joe Orseno's gelding Halos Sailing Sain, second in a one-mile allowance at Gulfstream last month run in 1:34.

"He's been training great and he worked out well the other morning," Bravo said. "I was there the day he ran second to Bandini and he really ran an awesome race. The only thing that got him beat that day was Bandini stole the fence."

Bravo tied for second in the Gulfstream jockey standings in 2005. His biggest career wins came in the 1997 Donn Handicap (gr. I) aboard Formal Gold and the 2004 Haskell Invitational (gr. I) with Lion Heart. He has been the leading rider at The Meadowlands eight times and will seek his 13th Monmouth Park title beginning next month.