Entries in Kentucky Derby (2)


Resilient Jockeys Face Great Risk with Every Ride

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- Despite the considerable beauty associated with thoroughbred racing and the glory awaiting the winner of Saturday's 137th Kentucky Derby, the dangers a 115-pound jockey faces when mounting a 1,100-pound horse moving at 40 miles per hour cannot be overlooked.

From 1992-2006, there were 26 fatalities among jockeys in the thoroughbred and standardbred industry -- an average of 5.6 deaths each year, according to an April 2009 report compiled by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.  The authors said the figure likely was an underestimate.

Dr. James Tibone, an orthopedic surgeon with the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopedic Clinic in Los Angeles, who treats jockeys at Hollywood Park, called horseracing "probably the highest-risk sport for dying."

Yet, jockeys are a resilient bunch: "They're tough.  They don't complain about stuff.  They hurt and they ride," said Tibone, a specialist in repairing shoulders, elbows and knees.

Although jockeys are small, ranging from four-foot-10-to-five-foot-seven, "they're very fit," he said.  "They have no body fat.  They're toned and they're in great aerobic shape."

Tibone recalled that the late sports medicine pioneer Dr. Robert Kerlan, team physician for the Los Angeles Rams, Dodgers, and Lakers, as well legendary jockey Bill Shoemaker, "used to say they were the best-conditioned athletes he took care of."

These men and women (Rosie Napravnik hopes to become the first female Derby winner on Saturday) endure years of fractures, concussions, bruises and sprains, always aware that they could become paralyzed or die.

"Riders know that's the risk they take and they just go with it," said Darrell Haire, a former jockey who has broken both shoulders, both collarbones, a leg, a foot, a wrist, a thumb, and his jaw before hanging up his racing silks at 32.

As for pain, "they just block it out," Haire said.  Fueled by a combination of fitness and adrenaline, "they go on with it."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Kentucky Derby Announcer Too Stressed to Call Biggest Races

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The stress of the "fastest two minutes in sports" appears to have caught up with Tom Durkin, long-time announcer for the Kentucky Derby.

After 34 years as one of the most recognizable voices in horse racing, Durkin announced that he would not be renewing his contract to call the races of the Triple Crown.

"It's something I have dealt with a long, long time and the cumulative effect finally got to me," Durkin told the New York Times.  "It's like you're getting hit on the head with a hammer, and you do everything you can to make it better -- you take aspirin and put a bandage on it, but eventually you got to take your head out from beneath the hammer.  Life is too short and precious."

The Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes make up the Triple Crown of American thoroughbred horseracing.  Durkin said he would continue to announce other races, just not Triple Crown events.

"Those three races, though, are like being up to bat with a 3-2 count in Game 7 of the World Series," Durkin told the Times.  "I had to get out from underneath the heavy stuff."

The stakes are high in Triple Crown racing, and Durkin was the man talking millions of vested viewers through the thrilling, albeit fleeting action.  In 2009, he missed the Derby winner Mine That Bird -- a career blunder he said he wished he could undo.

Durkin is not the first professional in the sports world to succumb to the stress of the job.  It's not uncommon for the pressure of the spotlight -- or microphone -- to build up over time, according to Dr. Simon Rego, a clinical psychologist and director of psychology training at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.

"The clinical lore is that fear of public scrutiny ranks above death for a lot of people in terms of things that make them anxious.  It's up there among people's biggest fears," Rego said.  "When it reaches the point when it interferes with your ability to perform in your job, connect with people socially or enjoy life, it's at a level where it's disordered and there are treatments available."

It's normal -- healthy even -- to be under a little stress, Rego said, because it helps people avoid threatening situations.  But in a job like Durkin's, where every second counts and accuracy is paramount, stress can hinder more than it helps.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio