Rapid Recovery From Neck Injury For Kaenel

By Claire E. Novak
Apprentice Kyle Kaenel was cleared to begin riding again on Wednesday after recovering from an April racing injury at Turf Paradise that left him with two fractured vertebrae.

The 17-year-old jockey got back in the saddle at Arlington Park Wednesday morning with an easy canter on a trainer's pony. He is scheduled to gallop horses tomorrow.

Listed 13th among riders in national standings at the time of his accident, Kaenel was turning out a win percentage of 21% and an in-the-money percentage of 51% before one of his mounts ran through the inside rail of the Turf Paradise grass course and threw the rider. Earlier this year, Kaenel caught the attention of Turf Paradise fans by winning four races in one day on five separate occasions.

"The best move would be to wait until around November and make his comeback in New York," said the rider's mother, Debbie Crough, who is a former jockey. "He'd have six months of his bug left and could put in a productive winter there. But knowing him he won't want to wait that long, so he'll probably start racing again in Chicago."

Kaenel was fitted with a halo brace following the incident at Turf Paradise. Similar to the injuries of now-retired jockeys Laffit Pincay and Eddie Delahoussaye, his was initially considered career-threatening. After a thorough evaluation, doctors expected the rider to stay out for a year, but allowed him to return to racing when Kaenel made an unusually quick recovery after five months.

The jockey thanks racing luck and the support of fellow riders for the positive situation he's in now – both physically and mentally.

The oft-injured Richard Migliore was especially inspiring to the young apprentice. "I had great support from so many guys, but talking to 'Mig' helped quite a bit," Kaenel said. "He really built my confidence, and it was cool to talk to another jockey who had been in the same situation. You know – he's back, getting on horses, building his career up again ... and I have the opportunity to follow that path as well. I'm just really lucky to have recovered so fast and very happy to be back."