By Dick Jerardi
Kendrick Carmouche won his 3,000th race at the end of 2017. His mount earnings cleared $100 million in the summer of 2018.
The Parx Hall of Famer, who once won four consecutive Parx riding titles, had made a successful transition to riding in New York, with occasional stops back at the track where he was once so dominant.
It was all going so well. Then race 6 on Sept. 8, 2018 at Kentucky Downs happened. Carmouche was on a 5-2 shot in the $250,000 Juvenile Turf Sprint when another rider and his horse crossed directly in front of him, causing his mount to clip heels and fall. Carmouche’s right femur was shattered, his 2018 season over.
“You break your femur pretty bad, it’s almost like a motorcycle crash,” Carmouche remembered his surgeon telling him.
The surgeon also told Carmouche, “I’m going to take care of you.”
He was talking the morning of Sunday, Feb. 24, six hours before his first ride since the accident, race 6 at Aqueduct.
“Four horse field, I got the 1 hole, you know what time it is, me and the 1 hole,” Carmouche said. “It’s a little sloppy out there. We ain’t looking to get dirty first time out. Try to make every pole a winning pole the first one you come out, see if you still got it.”
He still had it. So did the horse—until the stretch when he got tired after setting the pace for much of the race.
The jockey could not sleep the night before his first ride back.
“It’s just something you love, you want to go do it all over,” Carmouche said. “I’m just anxious.”
Carmouche had been working horses in New York and at Parx, maybe 25 in all. He plans to ride Mondays and Tuesdays at Parx for the time being, as well as riding in New York
So how much work went into rehab?
“Everything and some,” Carmouche said. “A lot of people in therapy just kept pushing me. I’m a hard-working person. I know where I wanted to be when March rolled around. I still go to the gym and work out. The doctor said the first six months with your leg are going to be good, but the next six months are going to be great.”
Carmouche, 35, went to rehab three days a week at a facility just five minutes from the Newark, Delaware home he shares with wife Whitney, daughter Olivia and son Kendrick.
He always loves coming back to Parx.
“I’ve got to go see my peoples,” Carmouche said. “I went there the other morning to work horses, walked the backside, everybody just happy to see me. They said, ‘you just never stop, you’re still a hustler.’”
Carmouche has hustled so well for so long that he has ridden in 18,795 races, with 3,106 winners.
There is no offseason in horse racing, no guaranteed contracts.
“As much as you put in this game, that’s what you’re going to get out of it,” Carmouche said.
As much as he missed his time away from the track, he really enjoyed his time at home.
“A lot cooking, a lot of cleaning, a lot of playing football and basketball,” Carmouche said.
Now, Kendrick Carmouche is back. And he will ride every race like he always has—all out, trying to find the winner’s circle.