Story originally published on September 20, 2013, on DanonymousRacing.com
There is no official record of what happened in the sixth race at Delaware Park on August 19th. You won’t find a race chart and if you can track down a video replay, you might not even want to watch it. What unfolded just moments after the horses broke from the starting gate was simply frightening. It scared everyone, except for the person it impacted most.
“The last thing I remember was going up to the starting gate,” said jockey, Kristina McManigell. “I really don’t remember anything after that, to be honest with you.”
McManigell, 24, has no recollection of crashing to the Delaware turf when the horse she was aboard, Classical Destiny, suddenly fell. While the mare quickly sprung back to her feet and ran off without any visible injuries, McManigell was out cold, lying on the track near the inner rail by the sixteenth pole. Since the horses would have to run past her before hitting the finish line, the other jockeys in the race pulled their horses up and the race was stopped.
More than 36-hours later, McManigell finally woke up. She was in a hospital bed surrounded by doctors and her parents, who had flown in from their home in Kentucky. Not only had McManigell sustained a concussion, she’d also fractured her collarbone.
“My face was all scraped up because I kind of hit face first,” McManigell said. “But I remember arguing with the doctor that he had to let me go so I could go ride a nice horse that was (entered to run) at Philadelphia a couple of days after that.”
Doctors shot down the request and, furthermore, told McManigell that she could be out for four-months. Family and friends flooded her Facebook page and Twitter with get-well wishes. Most who had seen the nasty spill were just happy to hear that McManigell was awake, alert and not seriously hurt.
So, when she announced that she would be back to ride at the start of the Laurel meet, exactly one month after her fall, it seemed liked wishful thinking. But, sure enough, when entries came out for Thursday’s opening day card at Laurel, McManigell was listed aboard two horses.
“I drank a lot of milk as a kid, so I have good bones,” said McManigell, with a laugh. “Luckily, I heal very quickly.”
Not only is she strong physically, McManigell possesses a certain mental toughness too. Most might assume that she’d have no interest in watching a replay of the horrific-looking fall. But most would assume incorrectly.
“No, I actually wanted to see it,” McManigell said. “I didn’t remember anything, so I wanted to see how it happened and it was kind of surreal watching it, watching it and being OK.”
McManigell said she hasn’t felt any fear since the spill because of her lack of any recollection of what it was like falling off of Classical Destiny. Her parents, however, were watching the race live. They were also watching a few years ago when McManigell was badly hurt and sidelined for hour months after a spill at Parx.
“My mom texted me (a few days ago) and said, ‘I don’t think I can watch your races anymore,'” said McManigell. “My dad said to me, ‘why can’t you work at a bank or something?'”
“They care about me a lot of course. I kind of feel bad that they have to go through that but they know I love riding.”
McManigell, a graduate of the Chris McCarron led, North American Racing Academy in Kentucky, said she’s incredibly grateful for her parents, as well as all of the fans who expressed concern after her fall. She’s especially excited that she didn’t have to miss any action at Laurel, which she calls her favorite track.
While McManigell said she’s primarily focused on looking ahead, she could write a nice footnote to this story on Saturday. She’s scheduled to ride A P Elvis in the $100,000 Laurel Dash on Saturday. He’s the horse that she so badly wanted to ride in Philadelphia when she was lying in a hospital bed last month.
“Anytime something like this happens,” McManigell noted, in a moment of reflection, “I always feel such a great sense of appreciation when I do get back… I just love it.”