‘In The Parking Lot’: Wild Verse, Figueroa Both Unharmed After Del Mar Incident

by | 11.12.2018 | 4:01pm
Wild Verse took a hard left shortly after the start and wound up jumping a rail and hedge alongside the chute that leads to the main track.

Longtime Del Mar announcer Trevor Denman, who introduced the “commentary” style of racecalling to Southern California fans, strung together some ear-catching comments when the gates sprang open for Sunday's fourth race.

“Ohh, Wild Verse nearly lost the rider,” Denman said, “now Wild Verse has lost the rider, he's jumped the fence and is in the parking lot.”

In an incident that was shocking to watch, with a saving grace that neither horse nor rider was seriously injured, Wild Verse, a 3-year-old gelding trained by Peter Miller, took a hard left shortly after the start of the 6 ½-furlong race and wound up jumping a rail and hedge alongside the chute that leads to the main track.

Eighteen-year-old apprentice jockey Heriberto Figueroa, who lost the left iron when Wild Verse was bumped immediately out of the gate, landed in the dirt of the auxiliary parking lot. Wild Verse galloped away in the area east of the horse show arena and Surfside Race Place satellite wagering facility. It took 20 minutes or more, Miller said, before the horse, owned by Altamira Racing Stable, was caught and returned to the barn.

In the immediate aftermath, Del Mar steward Luis Jauregui viewed the incident from track camera angles on a large screen in the judges' booth and, on his cell phone, a video that had been sent to him. A former jockey, Jauregui could project himself into the situation he was watching.

Out of the saddle and heading down the left side of Wild Verse, Figueroa was in danger of winding up underneath the horse and possibly being kicked or stepped on.

“He pulled on the left rein for support and it was an athletic feat that he got back on top like he did,” Jauregui said. “But pulling on that rein pointed the (horse's) nose to the fence and by then it was too late, the fence was right there.”

Wild Verse showed athleticism, and possibly future potential as a hunter/jumper, in almost clearing the hedge on short notice. He wound up with “cuts and scrapes,” Miller said, that will take a week or two to heal. Wild Verse could possibly race here before the December 2 end of the meeting.

Figuerora was examined by medical personnel and quickly cleared to ride his other scheduled mounts. He finished third in the seventh race on East Rand for trainer Tim Yakteen and fifth in the ninth race on Shylock Eddie for trainer Brian Koriner.

“It's very fortunate nobody was hurt,” said Miller, who pointed out a apprentice/rookie mistake that Figueroa made.

“The jockey didn't have his feet in the irons going into the gate, and it went downhill from there. I've told him about that before. Maybe now he'll listen.”

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