Less than nine months ago, he was clinging to life at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center after a frightening spill at Timonium.
Saturday, he will ride in the 123rd Preakness.
"At first, I had to pinch myself," jockey Frank Douglas said. When [trainer Jean Rofe] called me, I felt I was dreaming."
The decision by owner Bobby G. Sowder to enter decided long shot Silver's Prospect has thrust Douglas into the Triple Crown whirlwind for the first time.
He will greedily savor the moment, although Silver's Prospect was rated as a 1,000-1 shot on a Las Vegas line Tuesday.
"Obviously, we'll be the biggest shot on the board," Douglas said. "But I'm just happy to be riding. Just being in that race is the greatest thrill. Being right after the accident makes it doubly good."
It is poetic justice for the 37-year-old rider, who was on his way to the Triple Crown last year with Captain Bodgit when Team Valor, the ownership syndicate that bought him, decided to team Alex Solis with the horse.
"I wanted to be in the Derby," Douglas said. "But the owners in California wanted somebody from there. It happens.
"I called Alex and gave him my opinion about running the horse. You cannot hold any grudge. I won five races with Captain Bodgit, and he's still my favorite horse, no matter what. I was rooting hard for him."
"He really wanted Captain Bodgit to win," said Douglas' wife, Pam. "Frank is very competitive, but he is never against another rider or horse.
"But because of what happened, this year is 10 times better."
What happened Aug. 31 is a wife's nightmare. Douglas was thrown over his horse, fell into the path of an oncoming horse, was kicked in the head and suffered a head injury that began shutting down his life-sustaining functions.
The jockey doesn't remember anything from the post parade from that race until three days later. Pam was in the audience at Timonium with her children and remembers a grim vigil.
She was told he probably wouldn't survive.
Within two weeks, Douglas was walking two miles and beginning a determined rehabilitation that would have him in official races by April 1.
Two days later, he rode his first winner of the comeback, M J Girl.
"It was like deja vu. The day of the accident, I won the third race with M J Girl at Timonium, then was hurt in the fifth race that day," Douglas said.
"When I won on the same horse, it was like turning the page and getting back to normal."
Pam, who works in a souvenir shop at the track, said she will be in the crowd Saturday watching.
"The first day he came back, I was there only to support him," she said. "Normally, I don't watch races much, but I guess he draws off my strength."
When he returned from his injury, trainers, wary of his condition, were hesitant to use him. Now, he is completely back to pre-spill days.
"I knew I was going to be back riding," he said. "There is always going to be risk and with a head injury, there was probably a little extra reluctance by the trainers.
"What you've got to do is let it go out of your mind and go on. I told the doctors I was coming back. I guess it's kind of a miracle."
Pub Date: 5/14/98