Jockey Daniel Centeno recovering after freak riding accident at Tampa Bay Downs

OLDSMAR — Daniel Centeno lies in bed, flanked by family and friends in the orthopedic ward at St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa.

This was supposed to be the week the four-time riding champion at Tampa Bay Downs mulled over summertime options with agent Dan Mellul. But their course of action has changed.

Centeno faces three months of recovery from injuries sustained in a freakish riding mishap at the track on March 11 in which he separated his pelvis and dislocated the left shoulder.

"It's a big disappointment," he said, "but part of the business."

Centeno, 39, was injured on Alajwad Dancer, a 4-year-old gelding making his career debut. Alajwad Dancer missed the break and ran upon rival Reynolds Renegade near the rail. He then darted across the track, unseating Centeno. The horse was not hurt.

"(Alajwad Dancer) got spooked when he got behind the other horse," said Centeno, who had worked him several times for trainer Kathleen Guciardo.

Ashley George, Centeno's fiancee, watched the race on television from their Tampa residence. She arrived at the track within five minutes. "He was in a lot of pain, but it was his shoulder that was hurting him," George said. "Nobody knew (about the pelvis) until the X-rays."

Centeno, a Caracas, Venezuela, native, had a 2 1/2-hour surgery Sunday. George said a metal plate and screws were used to stabilize the pelvis. "It will be three months before he can have any weight bearing on that side," she said. "During that time, they're going to do rehab, too."

Centeno, who has 1,450 career wins and earnings of more than $24 million, is expected to be released from the hospital soon.

Bob Jeffries, president of the Tampa Bay Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, said Centeno's fall was unavoidable. "When the horse ducks like he did, you've got no chance because the momentum throws you off," Jeffries said. "He's the leading rider for a reason. He's good. He's a good guy, too."

Centeno and George have been touched by area support. The day after the accident, Festival Day, Downs announcer Richard Grunder repeatedly mentioned the jockey's status. Centeno was listed on eight mounts that day. He had 78 victories and a 25-win lead over Leandro Goncalves for the riding title at the time of the injury. Retaining his edge is unlikely with 24 racing dates left.

"Nobody's ever won five (straight titles), and that was a big thing for him," George said. "This is home, so we'll be back."

MORE HORSES: Bearpath is the 7-2 morning-line favorite in today's Grade III $125,000 Tampa Bay Stakes (Race 9, 4:20 p.m.) at the Downs. … Trainer Kathleen O'Connell nominated Tampa Bay Derby winner Watch Me Go to the Triple Crown on Sunday for the late fee of $6,000.

DOGS: Aerial Battle of Capabal kennel collected his 50th career win Tuesday at Derby Lane in St. Petersburg.

Jockey Daniel Centeno recovering after freak riding accident at Tampa Bay Downs 03/18/11 [Last modified: Friday, March 18, 2011 8:52pm]

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