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Solis career on hold after Del Mar spill

Aug 3, 2004 3:03 AM

McCarron. Delahoussaye. Pincay. Krone. Gone, their riding days over.

Gary Stevens in Europe for five months, making a total of five Hall of Fame jockeys who have retired or ridden in greener pastures during the past two years.

Now, another with Hall of Fame credentials is missing from the Southern California circuit.

Alex Solis suffered a fractured vertebrae and lesser injuries in a spill at Del Mar on July 24. Initially, they were not thought to be serious. There was hope that the 40-year-old rider would resume his career in three months. But after surgery last Tuesday to stabilize his spine, his long-time agent, Scotty McClellan, said Solis could be out until the end of the year. Solis is a world-class rider, but more important, a person with good moral values.

Despite the medical prognosis, Solis has no guarantees. Just ask Laffit Pincay Jr. or Eddie Delahoussaye.

Solis could be sidelined longer than five months. The jury will be out for some time. Such is the case with spinal injuries. Pincay was expected to resume riding after he injured his neck in a spill at Santa Anita on March 1, 2003. Eventually forced to choose between a vocation he performed with passion and unflagging endurance for nearly 40 years or risk paralysis if involved in another riding mishap, Pincay, with pleas from his family, hung up his tack. Delahoussaye experienced a similar experience and ultimately was forced to retire following injuries from a spill at Del Mar a few years ago.

Ultimately, Solis may be faced with the same decision. The irony is that Pincay is Solis’ idol. Both natives of Panama, they are close friends. Laffit is godfather to Solis’ son, Alex Jr.

The absence of Solis will have major ramifications on the riding landscape.

"With Alex out and P. Val’s (Pat Valenzuela) status up in the air, it will completely revive Kent Desormeaux, Corey Nakatani, David Flores and Mike Smith as far as stakes mounts go," said Richie Silverstein, agent for Martin Pedroza and Iggy Puglisi. "It’s the old trickle-down theory.

"The daily overnight races should benefit the ”˜bug’ riders, Mick Ruis and Alex Bisono. Maybe Kerwin John and Jon Court will get a better shot, too. Nakatani is off to a real big start so I think the riding title will be won by either him, Tyler Baze or Victor Espinoza. Baze is on an absolute roll right now, as is Espinoza. But never underestimate P. Val. Even if he misses the first part of the meet, he could still be leading rider. But without him, it looks like Baze or Espinoza, although Flores is super-tough at Del Mar and he’s got some really good trainers behind him, like Julio Canani, Bob Baffert, Eoin Harty and Darrell Vienna.

"Of the riders not in the top five, I think Jose Valdivia Jr. could benefit from more stakes mounts. He’s usually on the bubble to get a good stakes mount from guys like Bobby Frankel."

Meanwhile, Silverstein hopes to overcome familiar hurdles in order to gain business for his two riders.

"Martin’s got his clients," Silverstein said, "but when there’s one live apprentice rider, it hurts us. When there’s two, like now, I get really slammed. It’s not that they take my winners. But if there are eight horses in a race and two are taken by bug boys instead of veterans who normally would ride them, the third or fourth horses in that race are likely to go to guys like Nakatani or Espinoza, so Martin loses out. With two live bug boys and eight or nine-horse fields, I’m not going to ride as many horses as normal, even with Patrick or Solis not riding. I’d rather compete with those two guys than the two live bug boys."

The homestretch

With Solis out indefinitely and McClellan without a rider, don’t be surprised if he eventually hooks up with David Flores. Solis leaves a significant void of elan and steadfastness in the jocks’ room. "He’s our Laffit," said fellow rider Joey Steiner. "He’s our rock."

”¡ A decision by Del Mar stewards on whether Valenzuela can resume riding from his suspension of July 2 had not been announced at press time. The stewards and the California Horse Racing Board were seeking hair follicles from P-Val that are long enough to be tested for drugs.

”¡ Agent Craig O’Bryan reports Gary Stevens will resume riding in the United States some time in October.

”¡ Baffert says of his 2-year-old sensation Roman Ruler, who won his maiden outing by four lengths at Hollywood Park on June 19: "I plan to run him just once at Del Mar, in the Best Pal (on Aug. 15), and not in the Del Mar Futurity." Baffert won the Futurity seven consecutive times until Richard Mandella ended the streak with Siphonizer last year.

”¡ Trainer Steve Knapp discussed Smarty Jones, whose foot bruise could end his racing career: "When horses go through the Triple Crown, it’s like having a bank account. You can only take out so much before it’s empty."

”¡ Here’s a tip to Gov. Schwarzenegger on how to save on California’s strapped budget — downsize the California Highway Patrol. It’s impractical for CHIP to issue tickets for exceeding the 65 mph speed limit on California’s freeways. Often traffic is so thick that the majority of vehicles can’t go above 20.