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If it wasn't for bad luck...

Veteran rider's career threatened after latest mishap results in shattered ankle

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Clint Magera's injury is reminiscent of the one suffered by jockey Red Pollard of Seabiscuit fame.

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Clint Magera's injury is reminiscent of the one suffered by jockey Red Pollard of Seabiscuit fame. Photo Store

The waver in his voice hung in the hospital room like veiled smoke. It gave him away. This might be the injury that ends Clint Magera's riding career.

"We'll figure it out," said Magera. "It could've been a lot worse."

Magera never made it on to the back of Eastern Beau in the seventh race last Friday. The horse lunged from his stall just as trainer Marvin Buffalo was legging him up. The 42-year-old jockey hit the ground and his leg flew up the air at the exact same time as Eastern Beau was lifting his own hind leg.

Bone on bone, the two limbs connected with force, just above Magera's ankle.

"I knew something was wrong," said Magera. "The big bone has a clean break and the other one is in three pieces, shattered."

Not unlike the injury struggling jockey Red Pollard sustained in the Seabiscuit saga. Of course, that story had a happy ending, when both jockey and horse came back from serious injuries to become world famous, together.

Clint Magera is not a "name" jockey. Not that he's any better or worse than any of the other jockeys here. It's a fine line between macaroni and steak in these parts. But he just happens to attract the bad actors of the horsey set.

"They find me!" said Magera. "I don't know what to tell you. It's unfortunate that my name always comes up when it comes to the bad ones. But I can deal with it. Usually I deal with the bad ones pretty good, if they're crazy or whatever."

But Eastern Beau got him. And it wasn't the first time. The same horse had reared and thrown Magera out the back of the starting gate a few weeks previous, hyper-extending his shoulder.

Magera has been down the serious injury road before. Six years ago in Tampa a horse stepped on him, punctured his lung and broke three of his ribs. It's a tough way to make a living, more so when you don't ride many horses.

Magera's mounts have tailed off in the last few years. His best year ever was in 1997 when he won 43 races from 482 mounts. Equibase stats show that he has ridden 381 winners from 1992-2014. Last year he rode 171 races and won six races. He was off to one of his best starts ever this year with five wins and five seconds from 52 mounts. People were supporting him.

Top trainers Rob Atras and Tanya Lindsay had put him on winners and he was galloping horses for trainer Don Schnell, including Schnell's Manitoba Derby hopeful Northern Contract. Schnell told Magera he would find a few mounts for him. That hadn't happened yet, but Magera continued to gallop the hopes.

"It's just a shame," said Magera. "It was such a good start for me, I was getting back going, had people supporting me. Just figures. If I got any luck at all its bad luck."

Magera hasn't exactly had the dream life, but he says he's enjoying himself.

"I love it," he said. "It's a rush. It's always nice to win races for people, and always good to get out there every morning."

Born in Saskatoon, Magera's Mom Carol had a stroke and died when he was only 13. His father Cliff raised him and his younger sister Karen, and took their mother's death hard. Clint ended up at the track as a teenager, starting out as a groom for trainer Carl Anderson in the late 1980s. He was galloping horses in Saskatchewan wheat fields shortly after that and rode his first winner, his own horse Perfectly Paul, to victory in 1992. Since then Magera says that between bush tracks, recognized tracks and quarter horses, he's ridden close to 500 winners.

Unlike Red Pollard, Magera has never found his "big" horse. And now he's faced with another major injury to recover from, with limited income.

"I'll get maybe $100 (insurance) a week if I'm lucky," said Magera. "I don't know what to tell you. I'm just going to be nickel and diming it. I've got the trailer. Gary Flaman will let me stay there. I think I've got enough to pay the rent for the year. I can make it the end of the meet. And my Dad said I can come up and stay with him in Foam Lake (Saskatchewan) if I want."

Magera also talked about picking up his 7-year-old son Tyler in Neepawa and taking him fishing. If friend Gary Flaman or agent Dave Brockhill can find him a car, if he can get his license renewed, if...

"As you get older you always got a wonder how much more you can take," said Magera." You just got a keep plugging away."

Searching for Seabiscuit.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 4, 2014 C5

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