Early Monday afternoon, Eddie Delahoussaye figured it had been a good day just because he was alive. Delahoussaye, who had been one of the centerpieces in a four-horse spill in the second race at Santa Anita, a spill that led to the death of one horse and left two other jockeys in the hospital, escaped with only soreness that probably will feel worse today than Monday.
Delahoussaye, released from Arcadia Methodist Hospital after an examination, returned to Santa Anita in time to ride the sixth race and then was about to go home when trainer Darrell Vienna reached him in the jockeys' room.
Vienna was in need of a rider for his 5-year-old mare, Mountain Bear, in the San Gorgonio Handicap because Rafael Meza, the horse's assigned jockey, had not been as fortunate as Delahoussaye. Meza, besides being thrown in the second-race chain reaction, had been crushed by another horse and remained in the hospital overnight for observation.
Anything Delahoussaye got after the spill was a bonus, and he and Mountain Bear fought off a rally by Royal Regatta, an 89-1 longshot, to win the $112,150 San Gorgonio by the shortest of noses in front of a crowd of 50,812.
"I was lucky, lucky all the way around," Delahoussaye said. "I just hope Rafael and Martin (Pedroza, who was also hospitalized overnight with chest and stomach injuries) are all right."
The second-race incident could have been worse, reminding veteran racegoers of the multi-horse spill in 1963 when Candy Spots won the Santa Anita Derby. Monday's accident, involving $25,000 claiming horses, started just before the horses entered the stretch, with Candy Chips, running in fifth place away from the rail, breaking his left foreleg, sending Pedroza flying.
M's Ibacache, Delahoussaye's mount, couldn't avoid Candy Chips and also went down. Third Reprieve, with Meza aboard, was unable to miss Candy Chips and tumbled, with Rocky Red and jockey Antonio Castanon falling after hitting Third Reprieve. It was Rocky Red, doing what amounted to a somersault, who fell on the dazed Meza.
Two of the horses got up and continued to the finish line after the race was over. Outriders eventually rounded up the three besides Candy Chips, whose badly damaged leg forced veterinarians to destroy him.
"I was the second one to go down," Delahoussaye said. "I saw it coming, the first horse going down, but I couldn't get my horse out of the way. I knew there were horses behind me, but I was lucky when I got thrown far enough so that I was clear.
"I hit hard on my upper back between the shoulder blades and had the wind knocked out of me. I tried to make sure that I didn't hit on my neck. I think riders are more scared of getting paralyzed than they are of getting killed."
Ray Sibille was riding another horse, Guarantee To Start, who trailed the four that fell. Sibille might have had an additional problem--Guarantee To Start can see out of only one eye--but he was able to guide the colt to the outside, missing the bodies.
"The leg (on Candy Chips) just snapped," Sibille said. "It happened so fast that nobody could miss everybody else."
Meza, who had just ridden Right Con to an upset win Sunday in the $182,800 San Fernando Stakes, was bleeding from the mouth when he was removed from the track. Pedroza, Sibille said, was complaining of stomach and rib pains. Castanon was released from the hospital along with Delahoussaye and rode another race on the program.
"It happened just as my horse was making a move on the turn," said Hector Palma, who trains Candy Chips. "You hate to lose the horse, but the important thing is the riders coming out of it all right. Candy Chips was a sound horse, so this was just something that happened."
Mountain Bear, a 5-year-old English-bred mare who started racing in California last October, had won four straight turf races at Santa Anita, two of them with Meza riding. She took an early two-length lead, with Royal Regatta far back.
Royal Regatta, moving between horses, passed Justicara, who was in second place, at the top of the stretch, with Mountain Bear on the inside. Royal Regatta couldn't get by Mountain Bear in a the long drive, although both jockeys--Delahoussaye and Jack Kaenel on the runner-up--were not sure who won as the horses hit the wire.
"My mare dug in and went after the other one real hard," Kaenel said. "But the winner was real game, she didn't back off. The two horses were just bobbing heads for the last 40 yards."
Royal Regatta, a New Zealand-bred, hasn't won a race since 1984 and was making only her fourth start in 18 months.
Mountain Bear, running 1 1/8 miles in 1:48 2/5, was a slight favorite over Capricorn Belle in an 11-horse field and paid $7.80, $5.20 and $4. Royal Regatta paid $44.60 and $14.40, and Justicara, who finished three lengths behind Mountain Bear, paid $4.80 for show.
Capricorn Belle finished seventh, and Fact Finder, who won the San Gorgonio last year, ran sixth.