Ramon Dominguez, who won 1,010 races in Maryland, has retired from horse racing after suffering a head injury at Aqueduct Racetrack in New York on Jan. 18. The 36-year-old jockey announced his retirement through the New York Racing Association on Thursday morning.
"While I hoped and even expected to be able to return to the saddle, as a result of my injuries and upon the advice of my treating physicians, it has been determined that I will no longer be able to pursue my career as a jockey," Dominguez said in a statement.
"I want to personally thank my family, fans, and fellow riders for overwhelming support in the months since my accident. I chose to make this statement to end speculation about my future, but I am not yet ready to speak publicly. I will come forward on my own, but in the meantime I ask that you please respect my privacy as I continue my recovery."
Dominguez started riding for trainer Graham Motion in 2000. Motion was saddened by Dominguez's career being cut short because of injury, but hopes the dangers jockeys face will be more apparent now.
"I think we take for granted the risks that these guys take each day and I think that when they get injured we sort of take it for granted that they're going to recover from their injuries," Motion said. "They take huge risks and this is going to be a big loss for racing.
"It's probably one of the most dangerous sports out there. I think this'll be a shock to people and I think it will be a bit of a wake-up call. I think people don't realize the risks they take."
Dominguez and Motion have spoken since the accident, but Motion was not consulted about Dominguez's decision to retire.
Dominguez was a four-time top-three finisher in Triple Crown races, but never won one. He won three Breeders' Cup races.
Dominguez has won the past three Eclipse Awards for top jockey in North American and has won 4,985 of 21,267 career starts, making a total of $191,615,698 during his career.
Of those wins, 1,010 came at Maryland tracks during his five-year stay in the state. Dominguez was the top rider in Maryland in 2001 and 2003 and was second in 2002 and 2004. He rode in 10 Preakness Stakes.
Mike Gathagan, vice president of communications for the Maryland Jockey Club, believes the forced early retirement of a high-profile jockey like Dominguez will alert people to the dangers jockeys face.
"A lot of them make a good living and make a good deal of money, but they're one spill away from their career and possibly their lives ending," Gathagan said.
Dominguez and Gathagan forged a friendship during Dominguez's time in Maryland, a friendship they have maintained ever since.
"As good of a rider as he is, he's a better person," Gathagan said of Dominguez. "You won't meet a better human being. I've been around professional sports for more than 25 years and I don't know if there's a better human being.
Gathagan likened the working dynamic between jockeys and track officials to that of independent contractors. Dominguez was as easy to work with as any jockey he's come across.
"Sometimes, professional athletes can be difficult. The one thing that no one can ever say about Ramon Dominguez is that he was ever difficult. Anything that I asked him to do, during the five years he rode here, he did it.
"He's just one of those special guys that you come across not very often. It's a sad day that he's retired, but he's got two young sons and a wife, he's got to be healthy and that's the most important part."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun