After devastating injury, jockey Maragh 'hungry' to come back

By Tom Pedulla/Special to HRN
December 05, 2019 10:49am
After devastating injury, jockey Maragh 'hungry' to come back
Photo: Derbe Glass/Gulfstream Park

Romero Maragh can finally see the finish line.

Eleven months into his recovery from thoracic fusion surgery to repair damage caused by a horrific riding accident at Gulfstream Park last Jan. 31, he is at last plotting a course for his comeback.

“Looking back at everything, being alive and being able to walk, I’m grateful for both of those things,” Maragh said, adding, “The moment I fell, I’ve been dying to get back on a horse.”

The promising 19-year-old apprentice has an appointment with his surgeon, Dr. David Krieger, on Jan. 7. He said he has been given every indication that he will be cleared during that visit to return to horseback. He expects to gallop horses in Florida the following morning and gradually increase his workload.

Krieger operated on Maragh for six hours – two more than anticipated – to fuse vertebrae T5 through T8 on Feb. 1. He also repaired other damage that a magnetic resonance imaging exam had not detected.

Maragh needed help walking and bathing for more than a month after the complex operation. He could not bend for the first five months. He said a physical therapy regimen of three hour-long visits per week has been an immense help.

“I feel great and my back is doing better,” he said.

Given his ordeal since his mount, Classic Act, clipped heels with Dixie Princess, ridden by Paco Lopez, he is remarkably upbeat.

“It’s made me more hungry than I’ve ever been,” Maragh said. “It doesn’t bring any fear. It made me a lot more hungry to win races and put out more.”

Maragh made a strong impression with his riding ability and his work ethic before the accident. He won 85 races with 106 runner-up finishes and 113 third-place efforts from 920 starts for earnings of $2,655,678 as an apprentice. He allowed himself one day off – to celebrate Christmas – during that span.

Hours after the Jan. 31 spill that caused him to lose consciousness for 30 minutes, he asked a doctor at a Florida hospital whether he would be able to ride a top contender in a stakes race three days later.

“We have to see if you can walk again,” the doctor responded.

Maragh will never forget those words. “When he said that, it honestly crushed me,” he recalled.

Once a titanium rod was used to stabilize his back, he dedicated himself to making a full recovery, displaying the same energy he had devoted to developing his skills on the track.

“Whatever my doctor said and my therapist recommended, I just went by that,” he said.

He is thankful to many family members for helping him to withstand a difficult period in his life. His older cousin, Rajiv, was able to relate to what he was going through as a veteran rider who sustained his own set of terrifying injuries.

Although Lopez was suspended 30 days for his role in the accident and, according to Maragh, waited six months before texting an apology, the young rider said he accepted it and will bear no ill will when he rejoins the riding colony.

“There is no bad blood for me,” Maragh said. “It is what it is.”

He said the time away from the track helped him reflect on what he can improve.

“I can correct a lot of stuff that maybe I just let slide by before,” he said. “There are a lot of things I can really polish.”

Despite being sidelined for such an extended period, Maragh emphasized that he will not rush his return. He wants to be sure he allows himself all of the time he needs to succeed once he is able to compete again.

“I don’t want to come back and not be as fit as I was or not be as good as I was,” he said. “I want to make sure I come back to where I left off. Nobody has to say anything where I’m scared or I’m not as fit.”

However Maragh fares in his comeback, his upbeat attitude is incredible for someone who endured so much adversity at such a young age.

“It’s like a speed bump in the road,” he said. “That’s all it was.”


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