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Jockeys step up to assist with rider's medical costs
By Mike Spellman | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 9/3/2009 11:18 AM

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With MRI results on 23-year-old jockey Michael Straight revealing head and spinal injuries, jockeys throughout the U.S. and Canada are stepping up to assist his recovery.

Straight was critically injured in a race at Arlington Park on Aug. 26.

Jockeys are being asked to donate one mount fee Saturday to a fund earmarked for Straight to help defray costs of his long-term needs. According to a statement released by the Jockey's Guild, they will also be riding with two patches on their boots, one in honor of Straight and the other paying tribute to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (PDJF), which currently aids 60 permanently disabled jockeys.

"The doctors say the head injury will heal on its own in time," said Matthew Straight, Michael's twin brother who is also a jockey. "He still has no feeling in his lower body but until the swelling around the spine goes down, we are keeping positive thoughts.

"He is responding to commands and shakes his head 'Yes' and 'No' when responding to questions and holding up fingers when asked."

John Velazquez, chairman of the board of directors of the Jockeys' Guild, said he appreciates the generosity of the jockeys, racetracks and fans throughout the country.

"We think it is important that those who love the sport of racing show support for Michael at this critical time. We are in his corner," Velazquez said.

"As jockeys, we want to do our part for those in racing that have been less fortunate," said jockey Robby Albarado, a member of the board of directors of the Jockeys' Guild.

"My family wants to thank the Jockeys' Guild and our fellow riders for their generosity and support for Mike as he continues to recover from his injuries," Matthew Straight said in a statement released Thursday morning.

Matthew Straight also will ride Smile Stable's More Than Able in Saturday's 4th race at Arlington Park, a 1 1/16-mile turf race. The horse had been ridden by his brother in his previous four starts, including a victory on June 7.

"With the national fundraising effort for Mike taking place that day, I really wanted to be able to be part of it and ride a horse. This horse is one that Mike had been riding and won on. It would really be great to win one for Mike that day."

Terry Meyocks, national manager of the Jockeys' Guild, noted the guild is donating $7,000 to the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance to help make the sport safer for all involved - jockeys and horses.

"Racing seems to be facing this problem now more than ever before and we need to continue on that (safety research) path," Meyocks said.

While contributions for Straight are to be directed to the MacBeth Fund in his name, permanently disabled jockeys depend on the PDJF for assistance.

Contributions to the Don MacBeth Memorial Jockeys Fund earmarked for Michael Straight should be sent to P.O. Box 18470, Encino, CA 91416. For more information on the MacBeth fund, visit www.macbethfund.org.

Donations to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund should be sent to P.O. Box 803, Elmhurst, IL 60126 or online contributions can be made at www.pdjf.org.