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Horse slaughter in Illinois
|Hawthorne Racecourse (2/27/08)
Contact: Mitch Demick (708) 222-4542
No Quit in Randy Meier as Hawthorne Prepares to Re-Open
Stickney, IL – “Stay down Randy, stay down!” Those were probably the thoughts of numerous fans after the 53-year-old jockey broke yet another bone in a nasty racing incident on November 30. But like cinema’s Rocky Balboa, this real-life athlete doesn’t know the meaning of the word quit, and Meier will once again be in the saddle on March 7, for Hawthorne’s opening day of its 2008 spring meet.
“This was just a broken arm,” Meier said. “Maybe that sounds bad, but I broke my neck and I have screws and plates in there, and that didn’t stop me. Shoot, a broken arm? I fractured my sternum and bruised my heart and that didn’t stop me.”
The man’s not exaggerating. Since 1972 when Meier made his professional debut at Fonner Park, in Nebraska, the broken-bone count has reached 49. From various spills, Meier has broken his legs, wrists, back, collarbone and the aforementioned arm and neck. The list clearly doesn’t stop there, so the obvious follow-up question is why continue?
“I love it, I really love what I do,” Meier said. “And of course we all need the money. Nobody ever stops when they think they have enough money. Did Michael Jordan have enough money at the end of his career? He played because he loved it.”
Without question Meier also has a competitive spirit that drives him endlessly. When Hawthorne’s all-time leading jockey went down in November, he was battling neck and neck for the jockey title, and he’ll tell you in no uncertain terms, that without incident, that title would have been his for the taking.
“I was kicking butt when I got hurt,” Meier mused. “There never would have been a race between Tim (Thornton) and Chris (Emigh). I was in front of them at the time. I really don’t think it would have been close at all.”
Thornton went on to win the fall riding title, but Meier still feels a third riding title to go along with his 1992 and 2003 titles is still a very strong possibility.
“All I really want to do is keep riding and winning, but we’re going into this spring meet looking pretty good and I think if I stay healthy anything is possible,” he said.
Other goals for Meier, none of which include impending retirement, are to: ride an Illinois Derby winner; reach 4,500 wins (he has won 4,048); and ride with his 19-year-old son Brandon, who currently exercises horses for Wayne Catalano in Florida.
“I think that will be awesome when Brandon and I ride together…and it’s coming. Maybe not this meet, but we’ll get there,” Meier said.
With the rehabilitation of his latest injury almost complete, Meier has found himself back in the saddle this past week, exercising horses for trainers Kerry Zavash, Roger Brueggemann and Frank Kirby. He is ready to once again risk life and limb for the love of the game.
Perhaps his agent for the last eight years, Penny Ffitch-Heyes, summed up the career of Meier when she says, “Randy is every bit like Bret Favre. He’s a warrior in the greatest sense of the word. He gives 110 percent every time he rides and I wouldn’t want anyone else riding for me.”
Hawthorne Race Course’s Spring Thoroughbred meet begins on Friday, March 7 and will continue through Monday, April 28. Live racing will be conducted Thursday through Monday, regular first post 1:35 pm central time. Hawthorne Race Course is located at 3501 Laramie Avenue, Cicero, IL 60804, gates open daily at 7 am. Call (708) 780-3700 or visit the Web site at www.hawthorneracecourse.com.
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