HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – On the sidelines for nearly four months due to injuries, jockey Rafael Hernandez was happy to get back in action at Gulfstream Park in Sunday’s sixth race.
The 31-year-old native of Puerto Rico eased his way back with one mount on Sunday’s program, finishing seventh aboard the Mike Maker-trained Ozymandias, a 3-year-old gelding who made his racing debut in the 1 1/16-mile maiden race over the turf course.
“I’m feeling great. I thank Mike Maker for giving me the opportunity to ride my first one back,” Hernandez said. “Every year, Mike Maker has helped me a lot. I appreciate everything he’s done for me. I’m here now. I’m back. Hopefully, we’ll be getting more action in the next few days.”
The 31-year-old rider broke his collarbone, fractured ribs and had a kidney removed after his mount Brandy’s Girl fell in a race at Gulfstream Feb. 20.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about everything. For the last 10 or 11 years I’ve been riding, riding, just working. This is the first time I was hurt bad. I was out four months, but I got to spend time with my family – that’s the one good thing,” he said.
After recovering and undergoing therapy in South Florida, Hernandez got riding-fit by galloping horses for two weeks at Fairmount Park in Collinsville, Ill., where he dominated the jockey standings for several years before being encouraged by trainer Wesley Ward and agent Cliff Collier to venture out and ride at major racetracks.
Hernandez, who has ridden 1,932 winners, plans to ride at Gulfstream Park throughout the summer.