Training fields

Golden Gate Fields jockey thrives after brain surgery


Dr. Pescado is 15-1 in the morning line for Saturday’s $100,000 El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields. Her jockey, Pedro Terrero, beat the odds exponentially.

On February 2, 2019, a spill sent Terrero crashing onto the track and causing him a serious head injury that required brain surgery. But after two years of arduous physical and mental therapy, Terrero not only returned to the circuit, but enjoyed the greatest success of his 13-year career as a jockey.

“It’s the longest of the longshots,” said Golden Gate Fields track doctor Dr. David Seftel. “This is an individual who underwent potentially fatal massive brain surgery, with much of his skull cap removed. We don’t see these people living normal lives, let alone riding a 1,100 pound animal. and succeed like him.

It was Terrero’s innate love of horseback riding – nurtured from a childhood spent on a farm in his native Mexico – that focused his recovery.

“Riding is me,” he said. “I’ve loved riding all my life and I love my job. Right after the operation, I think I will go back to work. But when they explained the type of operation to me, I was so sad because I didn’t know whether I would come back or not. I tried to do my best to be back.

According to Seftel, Terrero’s brain took a long time to heal.

“He also had physical therapy to make sure he could function,” Seftel said. “Strengthening and Retraining. It took many, many visits with neurologists and myself to convince us that he should be allowed back. That he had the level of coordination and cognition to make sure he was safe to ride. That’s 1% of any athlete with this massive head injury who returns to competition.

Terrero, who had competed in match runs as a teenager in Mexico, began his professional career at Golden Gate Fields in 2009.

Prior to his injury, Terrero often finished in the top 10 of the jockey rankings and occasionally finished in the top five. After returning in June, he won the riding title at the Alameda County Fair and Golden Gate Fields fall season and finished second at the GGF summer season. He is second in the current jockey standings – a winner behind Armando Ayuso.

“He’s been so dedicated since he came back,” Terrero’s agent Jay Robinson said. “He just wants it so badly. He is a workaholic and he constantly rides a horse.

While Terrero had his most successful year in 2018 with 99 wins, he won 90 in one semester in 2021 and is on that pace in 2022.

“It’s a surprise to me how well I’m doing,” Terrero said. “I was just going to enjoy my ride; I didn’t think about how I was going to do it. I’m just doing my best job.

As for Dr Pescado, Terrero thinks the gray colt can surpass his chances in the El Camino Real Derby. The 1 ⅛ mile race drew a group of 11 led by 8-5 favorite MacKinnon, a two-time Southern California Stakes winner who finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.

Dr. Pescado won two of four starts, including the 6-furlong Golden Nugget Stakes and rallied for third place in the 1-mile Gold Rush Stakes.

“I think he can do well but I know it’s a tough race,” said Terrero. “He’s one of those horses that gives you everything; that’s what I love about horses. At least he will try. And I will try too.

Larry Stumes is a freelance writer.

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