After his first day back racing since Jan. 26, when a fall broke his arm and knocked him out cold at Santa Anita Park, jockey Drayden Van Dyke has a different perspective on his riding career.
He had been through spills before, but not like that, so the physical comeback went neck-and-neck with the realization that another injury could be—and likely will be—around the corner. After surgery to repair a broken arm and physical therapy to get back into shape, getting legged up with that knowledge can be the most difficult hurdle.
"I'm still going through the struggle of getting back," said the 22-year-old rider and champion apprentice jockey of 2014, who began working horses in the morning again June 7. "I've never been injured like this. I've tumbled plenty of times, but not badly like that. Part of becoming a great rider is fighting through injuries and learning how to ride with them."
He didn't ride any winners in his two mounts June 16 at Santa Anita—both for trainer Patrick Gallagher—but the day was more importantly a necessary starting point for Van Dyke to resume his career. That's not to say his horses didn't run to their ability. In his first start back, Van Dyke rode Galango to a ninth-place finish in a maiden claimer at 16-1, then guided 7-1 Oscar Dominguez to a last-to-third run in an 1 1/4-mile turf allowance in the Southern California heat that hit 95 degrees.
"It felt really good," Van Dyke said. "I've got the nerves out of the way now. Body-wise, I felt really well. The wrist and arm felt good—just maybe a tad bit week, but that will get better with riding.
"You've got to go through it. The only thing I could ask for differently is cooler weather."