Oaklawn Barn Notes: Cabrera Likely to Miss Remainder of Meet

Oaklawn Barn Notes by Robert Yates

Contact: Jennifer Hoyt, jhoyt@oaklawn.com

(501) 363-4305

Saturday, April 09, 2022

Photo credit: Coady Photography

Cabrera Likely to Miss Remainder of Meet

Oaklawn leading rider David Cabrera likely will miss the remainder of the 2021-2022 meeting after sustaining upper back, neck and head injuries from a spill in Friday’s first race, his agent, Joe Santos, said Saturday morning.

Santos said Cabrera has compressed C5 and C6 vertebrae, crushed cheekbones and suffered a concussion in the accident, which occurred in the upper stretch after his mount, Mostly Awesome, clipped heels when in tight and fell, throwing the jockey to the ground.

A trailing horse, Daigle, jumped the fallen Mostly Awesome near the three-sixteenths pole, unseating apprentice jockey Chel-c Bailey. Both horses involved in the accident were captured without incident, with no initial signs of distress. Bailey wasn’t seriously injured and fulfilled her remaining engagements on the card.

Cabrera, 29, was motionless for several minutes before being placed on a backboard and transported by ambulance to nearby CHI St. Vincent Hot Springs, where he remained in ICU Saturday morning, Santos said, adding there’s no timetable of when the jockey will be released from the hospital.

“It’s really kind of dependent on the cognitive aspect of it, when he kind of grasps everything mentally,” Santos said. “He’s a lot more active today and it’s mainly just from the concussion. There’s just some confusion there.”

Santos said Cabrera, who has movement in all extremities, was unconscious for approximately 20 minutes following the accident. Santos said he’s unclear if Cabrera was injured by the impact of the fall, Mostly Awesome rolling over him or a combination of the two events.

“He doesn’t remember the accident, so it’s kind of hard to get that from him,” Santos said. “His head hit twice. He hit and then it came back again and hit the ground one more time. We’re very, very thankful that he’s awake and able to talk to us because there were some scary moments there. He wasn’t moving. He was out cold.”

Santos said Cabrera’s compressed C5 and C6 vertebrae will “heal with time” and not require surgery. His cheekbones “were crushed up, kind of like crushed ice” and “not like a fracture, really.” Those injuries will not require surgery, either, Santos said. Santos said there was initial brain bleeding, but no swelling.

“Yesterday, he wasn’t very aware of what happened, but today he’s much more cognitive,” Santos said.

Santos said Cabrera’s sister lives in Hot Springs and was with him Friday night, while an aunt and the jockey’s fiancée were en route to Hot Springs Saturday morning. Ruben Munoz, the longtime agent for perennial Oaklawn riding champion Ricardo Santana Jr., and Cody Caudill, an administrative assistant for trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs, rushed to the hospital after Cabrera’s accident, Santos said.

“I’m just happy we’re able to talk to him today,” Santos said.

Cabrera was the runaway leader in the Oaklawn rider standings with 62 victories through Friday, Day 53 of the scheduled 66-day meeting. Francisco Arrieta was second with 49 victories, two more than Santana, an eight-time Oaklawn riding champion.

Cabrera is normally the most active member of the Oaklawn riding colony. He had a meet-high 370 mounts through Thursday, was tied for first in stakes victories (four) and ranked second in purse earnings ($3,374,968). Cabrera began surging to the top of the standings following a torrid stretch in late February when he won 10 races over three days (Feb. 19-21). Cabrera rode four winners Feb. 19, a single-day Oaklawn personal best, Feb. 21 and again March 31.

Cabrera already has equaled his single-season Oaklawn personal best for victories – he rode 62 winners at the 2021 meeting – and, prior to the accident, was closing in on his first riding title in Hot Springs after finishing second to Santana in his 2018 debut and again last season.

Santos said it’s “far-fetched” to believe Cabrera will ride again before the meeting ends May 8.

“Right now, we’re just worried about getting him better in general,” Santos said.

A native of Mexico, Cabrera recorded his first career victory in the United States in 2013 and has 1,583 overall, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. He recorded his most lucrative career victory to date aboard Rated R Superstar in the $500,000 Essex Handicap (G3) for older horses March 19. Cabrera said Friday morning that he planned to return to Lone Star Park following the Oaklawn meeting. Cabrera finished second in last year’s Lone Star standings. Lone Star’s 2022 meet opens April 28.

Milestone Watch

Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen entered Saturday with 796 career victories at Oaklawn. The late Bob Holthus is the only trainer in Oaklawn history to reach 800 career victories.

Asmussen had five horses entered Saturday and Sunday. He topped the standings at the 2021-2022 meeting through Friday with 41 victories. Asmussen and the late Hall of Famer Henry Forrest share the Oaklawn record for career training titles with 11.

Finish Lines

After missing Thursday and Friday (cut finger), jockey Francisco Arrieta was scheduled to resume riding Saturday, his agent, Jay Fedor said in a text message Saturday morning. Arrieta was Oaklawn’s second-leading rider this season through Friday with 49 victories and entered Saturday with 99 in his Oaklawn career. … Trainer Coty Rosins double Friday represented his first two career victories at Oaklawn. Rosin won the first race with Close to Me ($12.20) under apprentice jockey Albert Lopez and the fourth race with Sonnyisnotsofunny ($17.60) under apprentice jockey Erick Medellin. Rosin started his first horse at Oaklawn in March 2021. He won a 39-way shake, or blind draw, last month to claim Girls a Bullet for $6,250. … Recent arrival Gabriel Saez recorded his first riding victory at the meet in Friday’s seventh race aboard Blueridge Mountain ($9.20) for owner/trainer Joe Sharp. It was the 52nd career Oaklawn victory for Saez, who is planning to ride until the meet ends May 8, according to his agent, Liz Morris. … Favored Ava’s Grace ($3.40) was a front-running 4 ¾-length first-level allowance winner of Friday’s fifth race, which trainer Robertino Diodoro said was a prep for the $750,000 La Troienne Stakes (G1) for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles May 6 at Churchill Downs. David Cohen rode Ava’s Grace, who was exiting a fifth behind champion Ce Ce in the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles March 12. The Azeri was Oaklawn’s final major prep for the $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) at 1 1/16 miles April 23. Azeri third Shedaresthedevil is now at Churchill Downs preparing for the La Troienne for trainer Brad Cox and co-owner Staton Flurry of Hot Springs. … March 19 maiden special weights graduate Skate to Heaven is pointing for the $400,000 Lexington Stakes (G3) for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles April 16 at Keeneland, Diodoro said Friday morning. Cohen has the return call. Also pointing for the Lexington is the Kenny McPeek-trained Dash Attack, who won the $250,000 Smarty Jones Stakes at 1 mile Jan. 1 under Cohen. The Smarty Jones was Oaklawn’s first of four Kentucky Derby points races this year. … Sweet Tea, the final horse solely owned by the late Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farm, was retired following a seventh-place finish in an April 2 entry-level allowance sprint for older fillies and mares. A Jan. 30 maiden special weights graduate for trainer Larry Jones, Sweet Tea was entered earlier this week in a one-horse online auction conducted by Fasig-Tipton. Bidding closed Friday at 1 p.m. (Central). Sweet Tea, a 4-year-old daughter of super sire Into Mischief, raced for Porter’s widow, Betsy Porter. Fox Hill owns its two remaining horses in partnership with Siena Farm, Grade 2 winner Royal Ship, and the Jones-trained Salute the Flag, who has been based this year at Oaklawn and broke her maiden March 31. Fox Hill is among the most successful owners in Oaklawn history, campaigning, among others, 2011 Horse of the Year Havre de Grace and Grade 1 winners Round Pond, Omaha Beach and Joyful Victory and Grade 2 winner Eight Belles in Hot Springs.