Birzer to Appear at Benefit Auction at River Downs

Edited release

The Gary Birzer Benefit featuring a silent and live auction will take place at River Downs Sept. 4, to help raise funds for the 28-year-old jockey who remains paralyzed from the waist down after a spill July 20, 2004 at Mountaineer Park in Chester, W.Va.

"Some of the best farms and biggest tracks in the country have already donated high ticket items to this auction for Gary," said River Downs publicist John Engelhardt.

Among the items to be auctioned are a halter worn by Storm Cat donated by Overbrook Farm and a mounted shoe worn by 2001 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Monarchos, donated by Claiborne Farm.

Churchill Downs is offering several items including Giacomo's Kentucky Derby saddle towel signed by jockey Mike Smith, trainer John Shirreffs and owners Jerry and Ann Moss.

The auction will be highlighted by an appearance on horseback by Birzer.

Birzer landed on his neck in a two-horse spill last summer, breaking the vertebral bones in his neck and spinal column. He underwent stabilization surgery two days after injury at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Presbyterian Hospital.Several months ago he moved back to Cincinnati with his wife, Amy, and young daughter, Robyn, to be close to her family and the Drake Center, a renowned rehabilitation facility.

Despite being told he would never ride again, Birzer wanted to stay connected with horses. He contacted Thoroughbred trainer Dee Anderson who heads up the Winton Woods Riding Center in Cincinnati. With caution, patience, and great determination he has been riding with the help of an exclusive horse and special saddle designed by the school.

For the first time, two weeks ago he went on a trail ride with the assistance of volunteers. Despite his current physical condition, Birzer has maintained a positive outlook toward life, his role as a father, and being able to keep his relationship with horses and the horse racing community.

Weather permitting, Birzer intends to ride in the paddock with the assistance of the staff from Winton Woods Riding Center on the day of his benefit.

For more information or if you would like to donate an item of value for auction contact John Engelhardt (513) 354-8243 or Donations may be sent to River Downs Public Relations, 6301 Kellogg Ave., Cincinnati, Ohio 45230-0286.