Jockey Rene Douglas came out of a seven-hour surgery at Northwestern Hospital May 24 without feeling in his lower extremities, and doctors there said the 42-year-old rider may not walk again, agent Dennis Cooper reported.
Douglas, who entered surgery around 2:30 a.m. (CST) and came out around 9:30 a.m., was injured in a racing accident at Arlington Park in the May 23 Arlington Matron Handicap (gr. III).
“They said he might not walk again, it didn’t look like,” Cooper said. “He’ll probably have use of his upper body, but they gave it to me straight that he’s not likely to walk. They won’t be a million percent sure until after the swelling goes down in about 10 to 14 days, but it doesn’t look good.”
Douglas will remain in the intensive care unit of Northwestern for two weeks, until he moves to rehab.
“It’s devastating,” Cooper said.
Douglas was worked on by a team of specialists who made efforts to repair compressed vertebrae and damage to the rider’s neck. But the main concerns centered on Douglas’ spinal cord, which may have been damaged by a fragment of splintered bone, Cooper said.
Northwestern Memorial Hospital said that Douglas was in fair condition following his surgery. Neither the hospital nor Arlington Park officials would release any details about his injuries, Associated Press reported.
"All of our thoughts and prayers are obviously with Rene and his family, and we continue to hope for the best," Arlington Park spokesman David Zenner said.
Cooper said Douglas was alert and able to speak with his wife before he was moved to surgery. Doctors had him transferred via helicopter from Northwest Hospital near Arlington to Northwestern before they began the procedure. He had initially lost feeling in his lower extremities after the accident, but was reported to have regained some feeling in his legs while still at the first hospital. He was also complaining of pain in his arms and back.
Douglas was thrown from his mount in the Arlington Matron Handicap (gr. III) when the 4-year-old Born to Be was bumped by Sky Mom, clipped heels with Boudoir, and fell in upper stretch. Born to Be flipped and tossed Douglas over her head, then landed on top of the prone rider. Track workers had to drag the daughter of A.P. Indy off of Douglas before he could be transferred to a backboard. He was removed from the track via ambulance, as was his mount.
Cooper said he had been told that the horse, trained by Eric Coatreiux, had recovered from the incident. A spokesperson for Arlington Park said the filly returned to the barn and had not been euthanized on the day of the accident.
“She went straight down head over heels just like in slow motion,” Cooper said. “She hit him with her whole body, dropped there on top of him and just laid there.”
The filly remained on the track for several moments before being transferred to the equine ambulance. Sky Mom, who finished fifth, was disqualified for interfering with Born to Be and was placed last.
A naitve of Panama, Douglas has been the leading rider at Arlington six times (2001-2004 and 2007-2008) and holds the record for most consecutive titles at the Chicago track with four (2001-2004). This season, he was tied with E.T. Baird in the early contest for leading rider honors at the track with 15 wins going into the May 23 card.
Douglas has nearly 3,600 North American victories, including the 2006 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) with Dreaming of Anna and the 1996 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) on Editor's Note. His mounts have earned more than $102 million through May 23.