Jockey Don Frazier's goal of reaching 2000 wins, in a race riding career that spans over 36 years, has temporarily been
placed on hold.
Just five victories short of an illustrious milestone in racing, Frazier sits at home this morning nursing a compressed
fracture of his C-6 vertebrae, suffered during a spill following last Saturday's fifth race at Fonner Park in Grand Island.
The injury is located at the base of the neck and is something that the 53-year-old jockey has dealt with before.
According to Frazier's wife, Darcy, "he remembers nothing about the incident but he's confident he'll be back riding in six
Darcy was home at the time, watching the live video-stream of the race on the computer while preparing for work.
Her husband had just finished 5th on Slew Z Cowboy, a lightly raced four-year-old gelding out of the Stevan Hall barn, when all of a sudden, "for no explainable reason," says trainer Hall, "my horse just did a somersault and rolled over Donnie, knocking him unconscious."
Hall describes it as "bad racing luck! I just hope everything works out for Don."
Amazingly, Frazier walked off the track with his right arm elevated above his head to ease the pain. The horse, meanwhile, was dazed but only suffered a nick on one of his hind legs.
Hall and Frazier have teamed up a lot in recent years at Fonner, winning the Special Stakes in 2011 on Buddy George.
"I've always used Donnie," said Hall. "He's consistent and can tell you things about a horse that are useful."
Yet, in Hall's words, "freaky things have a way of popping up, repeatedly, at the track. Things there aren't an answer for."
Two weeks prior to this mishap, Frazier was slugging it out on the front-end of a four furlong sprint
with another Steve Hall-trained-horse named Little Stogie. Midway on the turn, Little Stogie's bridle broke, prohibiting the rider from steering him on a straight path to the finish line.
The reins had become useless.
Frazier came away unscathed from that event, but Little Stogie, ultimately, bolted through an outside fence, suffering a shoulder injury, and is out indefinitely.
For years, I've been expounding about the exploits of jockeys. The nature of the business is hazardous. But these guys love what they do.
Don Frazier is no exception.
He's a third generation rider in his family, following the footsteps of his grandfather, Don, and father, Basil. A great uncle,
Basil James, led the nation as an apprentice rider with 245 wins in 1936, beating out the famed Johnny Longdon, and rode in
five Kentucky Derbies.
Born and raised in Southern California, Frazier moved to Nebraska in 1984 and has raised two sons, T.J. and Ronnie, right
here in Grand Island.
Along the way, he's ridden numerous Fonner stakes winners, including Urbanity, Senator Billie B, Afford,
Advice and Lukfata Louis. Horses that were trained by Kelly Von Hemel, Ron Ochs, Temple Rushton and Randy Brock.
It's hard not to get emotionally attached to those who make Nebraska Thoroughbred Horse Racing their livelihood.
It's even harder to announce, "There's a rider down on the track."
Here's to a speedy recovery for Don Frazier. It would be an honor and a privilege to call his two-thousandth win!