From the Paulick Report
After sitting out almost four months due to injury, jockey Rajiv Maragh returned to the races Friday afternoon at Gulfstream Park and started the new year off on a winning note, taking the ninth race with Joyce Young and Gerald McManis’ Sky Blazer.
The Barclay Tagg trainee settled in last early in the 10-horse field before circling the group and making a bold move down the stretch to get up for the victory over the front-running Golden Rifle. Maragh entered the winner’s circle to many congratulatory cheers and well wishes in support of his triumphant return.
“It feels great,” Maragh said. “I really feel like a lucky person to be able to come back and have the support of such good horse people like Barclay Tagg and others that are giving me the opportunity to ride this weekend. To be able to win, you don’t really know what to expect. I was hoping for the best, and it couldn’t have been any better than that.”
The 29-year-old Maragh, a Jamaican native, suffered a broken arm in last September’s Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1). He was unseated when his mount Wicked Strong clipped heels with fellow starter Moreno, causing the colt to stumble. Maragh underwent surgery to repair the break at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, New York; plates and screws were inserted to stabilize the arm.
“For the last two or three months, I’ve been rehabbing, trying to get my arm stronger,” Maragh said. “Now it’s fully healed. It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve been getting on horses, and I’m trying to get back my strength and working on my fitness. Today I [rode] only one horse, and I’m just trying to get back started.”
Maragh missed the rest of year, including the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita, where his regular mount Main Sequence won the $3 million Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) under John Velazquez. Maragh was aboard Main Sequence for all three of the gelding’s previous starts in 2014 – the United Nations, Sword Dancer Invitational, and Jose Hirsch Turf Classic – all Grade 1s, and all victories. Main Sequence is one of three finalists for Horse of the Year at the 44th annual Eclipse Awards, which will take place at Gulfstream Saturday evening. Maragh will regain the mount on Main Sequence when he returns for his 6-year-old season. The son of Aldebaran is currently training for a start in Gulfstream’s Mac Diarmida Stakes (G2) on Feb. 21. He is undefeated in North America.
“I was rooting for him, and I’m so excited for the horse and his connections,” Maragh said. “The horse is an amazing horse, and the connections are great people as well. It was very gratifying to see him go on and win the Breeders’ Cup.”
Maragh did ride in the Breeders’ Cup in 2012 and 2013, when he posted back-to-back wins in the Filly and Mare Sprint (G1) with the popular Groupie Doll, and he memorably rode the mare to an additional win at Gulfstream last winter, when the two-time Champion closed out her career with an emphatic victory in the Hurricane Bertie Stakes (G3).
“Groupie Doll was a super special mare to me,” Maragh said. “She was a one-of-a-kind, fantastic filly. It was great to have her go out on top of her game like that with a very impressive performance. It definitely ‘wowed’ everybody. It was great for the people of Florida at that point to get to see Groupie Doll, and it was great for the whole team.”
Maragh will ride the rest of the winter meet at Gulfstream before returning north in April.
“Before I got injured, I intended to ride here for the season, starting December first. I’m here now and I plan to ride until the end of March and then head back up north to my regular circuit in New York for the spring, summer, and fall.”
“It’s very exciting to be back in the saddle,” he added. “I’ve been out for four months, and I’m just trying to build from here.”