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Racing Builds a Foundation for Shoemaker

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The day was hectic, but Cindy Shoemaker was doing her best to put on a public face.

Talking in halting tones at a news conference at Hollywood Park Sunday, Shoemaker suddenly stopped and said, “This is not as easy as I thought it would be.”

No one was surprised by such a proclamation.

She was speaking publicly for the first time since her husband, former jockey Bill Shoemaker, became a quadriplegic as a result of an auto accident April 8 on the Foothill Freeway in San Dimas.

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Still, she talked about his condition, and offered a positive outlook.

In turn, the horse racing industry, led by R.D. Hubbard, chief operating executive of Hollywood Park, announced the formation of the Shoemaker Foundation that will raise funds to help defray costs of Shoemaker’s rehabilitation.

The fund was but one of the reasons Cindy wanted to extend a public thanks.

“It is so overwhelming, the cards, letters and faxes have come in from all over the world,” she said. “When you live every day with someone like Shoe, you lose sight of how terrific they are.”

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Sunday began with another important event in the Shoemaker household, one that Bill insisted continue despite his condition.

Amanda, the Shoemakers’ 11-year-old daughter, was participating in the final day of a children’s horse show in Flintridge.

Cindy said she has tried to shield Amanda from the horror of her father’s injury, in which the fourth cervical vertebra was damaged.

She said Shoemaker wanted Amanda’s life to remain as unchanged as possible. He wanted her to stay in school and finish her horse show.

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Cindy complied.

“Keeping my family together is my primary concern,” she said.

Shoemaker spent the first two weeks after the accident at the Centinela Hospital Medical Center in Inglewood.

He was transferred to the Swedish Medical Center in Denver and will be moved in about a week to the nearby Craig Rehabilitation Hospital.

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Cindy, who stayed by Shoemaker’s bedside for the first two weeks, said she did not go to Colorado because her husband wanted her to stay with Amanda.

She and Amanda will eventually visit Shoemaker, but Cindy said they will not move to Colorado. Instead they will commute as necessary.

“Amanda just wants her daddy home as soon as possible,” Cindy said.

Chances are Shoemaker will return to their San Marino residence within a half year, if not before.

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Cindy said Sunday her husband has handled the injury and his rehabilitation with the skill that made him the all-time winningest jockey when he retired last year to become a trainer.

“The doctors say he is a remarkable patient,” Cindy said. “He has the patience of Job. He is working right along with the doctors. He doesn’t complain although he’s in a lot of discomfort.”

He also has his sense of humor.

Cindy said she must read his lips to understand him, often a difficult task.

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During one exchange, she said, Shoemaker ran his words together.

“I couldn’t understand a thing,” Cindy said. “Then he lipped, ‘Just kidding.’ ”

Shoemaker has had stitches in his head and stomach removed and has started working with Craig physical and occupational therapists.

The bottom side of Shoemaker’s left lung collapsed after the accident but is healing, Cindy said.

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He also is being taken off a respirator for three minutes, three times a day. Doctors are trying to slowly teach Shoemaker to breathe without a respirator, which would greatly improve his quality of life.

Cindy said Shoemaker is starting to show signs of diaphragm function, which eventually could lead to the ability to speak.

When asked about the future of Shoemaker’s barn, Cindy said the family has not considered it.

“This man worked so hard to live,” she said. “Now he’s trying to attain some type of quality life.”

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Cindy said Shoemaker acknowledged the efforts of the horse racing community on his behalf.

Hubbard said Sunday that the California Horsemen’s Racing Assn.--meetings at Hollywood Park, Del Mar, Pomona, Oak Tree and Bay Meadows--will donate a percentage of the wagers from a designated stakes race to the Shoemaker Foundation.

Senate Republican leader Ken Maddy of Fresno is expected to introduce legislation Tuesday in the state legislature that will allow the tracks to use from 15% to 20% of the wagers for the fund.

Hubbard said that alone will raise a minimum of $700,000. He also said tracks nationally are expected to organize similar contributions.

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Hubbard said some of the country’s major breeding farms are expected to donate a percentage of their earnings from stud services.

The Sunset Handicap on July 21 was designated as Shoemaker’s stakes race for Hollywood Park’s summer meeting. He won the race 13 times in his 41-year-career.

Hollywood Park also dedicated its revamped winner’s circle to Shoemaker in a ceremony Sunday after the Shoemaker Handicap.

“It is nice to know that just because he retired, he has not been forgotten,” Cindy said.

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