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Surgeons Implant Metal Rod to Aid McCarron’s Thigh

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Jockey Chris McCarron, who suffered broken legs and a broken arm in a spill Sunday at Hollywood Park, underwent three hours of surgery Monday night and will be sidelined an estimated four to five months.

Dr. Doug Garland, the surgeon who operated on McCarron after he was involved in another major spill in 1986 at Santa Anita, led a team of surgeons who performed the operation on the 35-year-old jockey Monday at Centinela Hospital Medical Center in Inglewood.

A pin was placed in McCarron’s broken right forearm and a rod was inserted in his broken left thighbone. McCarron also suffered a broken bone in his lower right leg, an injury that apparently won’t require surgery.

McCarron will remain in the hospital until the end of the week and then begin therapy at home. Because of the broken arm, he will be given a special set of crutches that will help his recovery.

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Although McCarron sustained more injuries in this spill, the damage is not believed to be as serious as the accident that resulted in a shattered left thighbone 3 1/2 years ago. That injury was high on the thighbone, near the hip, and consisted of four breaks that required separate mendings.

McCarron returned to action in March of 1987, five months after the spill, and in May of that year he won the Kentucky Derby with Alysheba. The breaks in the thighbone were fused with an eight-ounce metal plate, which was removed later.

On Sunday, in the fourth race, McCarron’s mount fell when the horse in front of him, ridden by Kent Desormeaux, broke a leg and went down. A trailing horse ran over McCarron. Desormeaux’s horse was destroyed, and he suffered a cracked rib and contusions.

Desormeaux was released from the hospital Monday and is expected to resume riding as soon as the soreness subsides.

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“Chris’ spirits are good,” Scott McClellan, his agent, said Monday night. “The main thing is that he’ll be back riding, and that’s the name of the game. He’s a tough guy. He went from 10 at night until 1 the next afternoon without needing medication, which shows what kind of a guy he is.”

McCarron has ridden more than 5,200 winners and his horses have earned almost $124 million. This year he was running second to Gary Stevens on the national money list with purses just under $5 million. Last year, McCarron was inducted into the racing Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., in the first year that he was eligible.

McCarron’s latest spill came about three hours before he was scheduled to ride Sunday Silence, last year’s horse of the year, in his 1990 debut. Sunday Silence, with McCarron riding him for the first time, clinched the national title last November with a victory over Easy Goer in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Gulfstream Park.

Pat Valenzuela, who had been Sunday Silence’s regular rider--including a victory in the 1989 Kentucky Derby--before drug problems resulted in McCarron getting the mount, took over for McCarron Sunday and rode the 4-year-old colt to a three-quarter-length victory in the $300,000 Californian.

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